DC's Whitney Kimberlin

Deer Creek four-year starter Whitney Kimberlin returns with her tenured experience at second base as the Antlers reload for another hopeful playoff run.

Deer Creek coach Lacy Darity says don’t be surprised if her softball team this season looks much like last year’s state semifinal qualifiers.

“I don’t think we’ll look a ton different,” Darity said last week, after talking about her returning seniors.

The names will stay the same, but the batting order and positional changes could see some rotation following the loss of last year’s seniors, Emily Hott and Brett Smith.

Darity said on Friday that the first returner to hit the batter’s box will be Shayleigh Odom. Odom, a center fielder and a University of Central Oklahoma softball commit, excelled in the two hole last season, and she’ll be joined in the grass by returning senior outfielder Macy Stockton.

Darity, who was complimentary of both of her eldest outfielders, had an answer for the hole Hott left offensively, and the third-year head coach has already started the foundation for filling in the open shortstop position.

Darity outlined a system that will see returning senior Hailey Evans at her natural third base position. Evans moved to first base last season to help alleviate the load on Creek’s pitching staff. With Evans returning to the hot corner — where she started her freshman year — she’ll be flanked by utility player Taylor Smith in the shortstop position.

The coach also said Friday that Evans will occasionally play catcher, too, with the Antlers opting for a young, left side of the infield that would also allow Smith to return to her natural third base. The team will then bring in Peyton Norvelle at shortstop when Evans is behind the dish.

Darity said she also expects big things from four-year starter and second baseman Whitney Kimberlin, as she and pitcher Caitlyn Wells continue the theme of experience across the middle to middle-right of the Antler’s 2019 defensive scheme.

And, with all the experience and prominent pitching prowess when factoring in Wells and junior Terin Ritz, Darity says the expectations are just as high as they were in 2018.

“Our expectations are the same as last year, especially with our team,” Darity said. “We know we left some meat on the bone last year, and they’re extremely motivated to finish the job this year.”

Deer Creek finished just two wins shy of the state championship last season, surrendering an early advantage to the Westmoore Jaguars before the Jaguars finished a same, come-from-behind victory to claim the 6A title over Edmond North High School in October last year.

Before the Creek can swell two wins higher, though, Darity said they’ll have to navigate a tough, reformed district that features a few menacing old names.

Darity outlined that she’s excited to face off against Mustang and eventually Edmond North — naming the two schools as challenges if Creek wants to repeat the district title. Darity even went as far as to name North’s trio of standouts — Jacee Minter, Evy Aud, and Kamryn Garvie — as returners who could challenge atop the district ladder.

“You’ve got to start with Edmond North, obviously,” Darity said. “Coach Nordyke does a really good job over there and they have some really good players and a good group of kids.”

Deer Creek will open their season slate on Tuesday, Aug. 13 with an away contest at Norman North High School. Creek’s home opener isn’t until Monday, Aug. 26 against old foe Edmond North.