Oakton softball coach Ray Gordon remembers the two minor details that cost his team a chance to reach the Northern Region championships last year.
In the semifinal game against eventual champion Westfield, the Cougars took a 1-0 lead after the second inning, but two fielding errors allowed the Bulldogs to score two. Westfield would hold onto for a 4-2 win.
“We weren’t getting timely hitting and we made an error where they scored,” Gordon said. “It’s a moment we’ve talked about in the weight room [coming into] this season.”
The Cougars haven’t forgotten the sting of just missing a regional finals appearance, but there is a silver lining.
The team realized the potential that lied within them; they were no longer a squad that should be satisfied with a 12-11 record, as it achieved last year. It should be competing for titles.
With a 9-1 record following a 1-0 victory against Chantilly on Tuesday night, the Cougars are living up to those expectations.
Oakton sits atop the Concorde with a perfect 6-0 district record, and in its past five games has given up three runs while scoring 24.
Once a district doormat, the Cougars now are playing the role of powerhouse.
“We haven’t been very good here for a while,” Gordon said. “But we’re changing everything and making people believers. We have a really strong group of players and kids on this team.”
Leading the Cougars is sophomore pitcher Allison Davis who, as of Monday, had recorded 100 strikeouts.
“She’s probably the best softball player in the region right now,” Gordon said.
Gordon said her performance in games has allowed the team’s defense to settle in, although there were sometimes the team was caught in awe of her ability.
“Early on in the season, I think our defense was too busy watching her than making the play,” he joked. “But now they’re used to her being there and they make the play.”
Offensively, the team is bolstered by a core of seniors who have been key players for the Cougars since their inclusion on the team as freshman.
Lead-off hitter Emily Corridon is one of the team’s top offensive weapons; third baseman Hayley French swapped from first base and is another key bat; and so catcher Amanda Krage.
Gordon credits their experience as one reason Oakton has become one of the area’s best teams.
“Some of these kids have started every game since their freshman year,” Gordon said. “They’ve got a lot of experience [at this level].”
But it’s not just the upperclassmen that are contributing this year.
Outside of its sensational sophomore pitcher, sophomore shortstop Emily Krisanda has risen to become one of the Oakton’s leaders. Back-up pitcher and outfielder Kayla Sweeney also is a viable option if Davis ever went down with an injury.
“Last year we lost Allison for about six games,” Gordon said. “So that was good because we learned how to play without her.”
With all the pieces in place, the focus now is on finishing the Concorde schedule strong, and putting the team in a position to compete for a region title.
That might prove a bit problematic as the Northern Region girls softball scene is intensely competitive, but Gordon isn’t worried about his team growing complacent or forgetting its goal.
“It’s an easy job to keep the girls focused,” he said. “In the past three years, [Oakton softball] hasn’t won anything. So the carrot is out there for them. I told them we can compete to win the district and region, but they need to bring it every night. Our girls know that, they won’t forget we were six outs away from reaching states last year.”