David W. Healy
Deer Creek’s Josie Azlin is only a freshman, but she is already a veteran leader on her softball team.
As the Warriors’ top pitcher, Azlin has helped lead Deer Creek to six victories in its first 10 games this season. At the plate, Azlin has also come up big for her Warrior team, coming through with many clutch hits in the young season.
“She is a little bigger and a little stronger this season,” said Deer Creek coach Rob Ballinger.
“She worked on her swing a lot during the summer and made it nice and compact.”
Azlin’s talent on the softball field has been on display at Deer Creek ever since her seventh grade season. Last season, as an eighth grader she hit a home run that was the biggest blast that Ballinger has seen in his 11 seasons as coach for the Lady Warriors.
Azlin has already connected on one homer this season.
“She has gotten better every year, and this year she should have an even better season,” Coach Ballinger said.
Azlin is one of several Warriors who have shined in the early season. Deer Creek players like Mary Katyln Whatley and Kenslee Wooley have also been productive from the plate.
“We have been hitting the ball really well in our first few games,” Coach Ballinger said.
Coach Ballinger also paid compliments to catcher Hailey Gilbert, saying Gilbert has been a key player for his team this year.
“Your pitcher is only as good as your catcher and Hailey has really done a great job for us,” he said.
The coach points to victories over Benton Academy and Central Holmes Christian School as two key wins for his team so far.
Last season, the Warriors finished runner-up in the North State tournament which allowed them to advance all the way to the overall state tournament.
Coach Ballinger sees no reason why his team can’t equal or go even further this year.
Deer Creek’s next big challenge is taking home the top prize in the annual tournament they host.
This year’s Deer Creek tournament will be played on Saturday.