TU Softball Team Evolving into National Power
By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
Courtesy University of Tulsa
Oh what a difference 20 years can make. The University of Tulsa’s softball team suffered through a 2-43 season when the program started in 1993. This season the Lady Hurricane was ranked 18th nationally going into tournament play and coach John Bargfeldt says his team could be on the verge of title contention. Progress is an understatement.
“When I got here, we had four seasons over .500 and now we have started winning championships,’’ says Bargfeldt, in his eighth season at TU with a 288-153-1 record through April 12. “We had never been to an regional (or won a conference title). I thinks it’s a matter of bringing in new ideas.’’
Bargfeldt’s brainstorms have resulted in four Conference championships and five regional tournament appearances since 2006. Through mid-April, TU was eyeing another league title with an 11-1 record and stood 31-9-1 overall.
“After my first year here we lost five seniors and we had to turn the program over pretty quickly. That‘s where recruiting came in,’’ Bargfeldt says. “Once we saw the players in this region of Oklahoma and in a couple of other states, we recruited that base and started getting the program where we wanted it to go.
“I think to get to the level where we are now, we had to take a couple of steps. Our goal is to get better every year. Once players came in here, we really worked hard to develop their skills. Some places, if players don’t produce right away, they don’t get much of a chance. We’ve stuck with players and have continued to get better. We’ve let them develop.’’
This year’s Tulsa team is built around four seniors. Shortstop Samantha Cobb is a three-year starter and all-conference performer who holds the school record for runs batted in. Outfielder Caitlin Everett hits .365 and hails from Forney, Texas, with pitcher Lacey Middlebooks also a Texan. Catcher Cassidy Bowen comes from Claremore.
“I feel we’re really playing well as a team’’ says Cobb, from Garland, Texas, who was hitting .308 with a team leading seven home runs through April 12. “Our defense had done well, our offense comes through and we have great pitching. Offense is the key and moving base runners around. If one of our top hitters is not doing well, the bottom of the order comes through.’’
Cobb says she came to TU after players she knew in high school became members of the Golden Hurricane team. They helped sell Cobb on the advantages of playing in Tulsa and so did the rapid climb of the program. Bargfeldt’s experience helped the sudden boom.
“I had played minor league baseball and someone convinced me to try men’s fast pitch softball. I fell in love with it,‘’ Bargfeldt says. “I played 20 years and when we got to the end of our playing years, some of us got college coaching jobs. One of my buddies became head coach at Georgia Tech and invited me to come and help him out. After a year there, I came to Tulsa.
“I felt like playing the men‘s game as long as I did, I could help immediately and give players some success. I didn’t know if we could expect to win the conference title, but it was a great feeling to pull it off. It jumped started this program.’’
Bargfeldt had packed his recruiting skills and winning formula and headed to Tulsa for his first head coaching job. Eight seasons later, Jill Barrett, a junior from Greenwood, Ark., led the team in hitting at .400 through mid-April. Junior Aimee Creger from Yukon had compiled a 16-3 pitching record with a 1.00 earned run average. Middlebrooks stood 13-3 with a 1.54 .
“We’ve kind of been the under dog and since I’ve been here, we’re at the point where we’re the team to beat in the conference,’’ says Cobb. “We’ve made a lot of progress by working on the little things. It’s repetition. I think our offense makes us a scrappy team and now we have a lot of things to look forward to. We had the conference tournament at home (May 9-11 at the Collins Family Softball Complex) and we hope we’re getting to the point where we can host a regional.’’
Bargfeldt says he sees no reason why TU can’t go all the way to a national championship.
“I think there’s no limit in the future and the reason for that is I didn’t feel like any of the teams in the World Series (last season) were decidedly better than us,’’ he says. “At the beginning of the year I knew we had a strong corps of seniors and we have very strong pitching and very experienced hitters. We have good team speed and we can win in different ways. We have all the ingredients to win. It’s just a matter of who’s better on that day.’’