LATTA — Latta softball coach Jim Foster has been searching for consistency this spring with a young club that has just two seniors. And he might have finally found what he’s been looking for heading into this week’s district round of the Class 4A playoffs.

“We’re playing pretty well right now,” said Foster, whose sixth-ranked club improved to 14-8 with a pair of blowout victories over Roff (No. 6 in 2A) and a 2-1 win over Rock Creek (No. 8 in 3A) last week and will host Vanoss and Savannah in the district round of the playoffs beginning Thursday. “We’ve had to make some adjustments, because we’re playing a lot of young kids. The older players have done what I’ve wanted them to, and the younger ones seem to be getting better every time we play. We’re learning as we go.”

“We’ve played some good teams this year, and that should get us ready for the playoffs,” he added. “We play that kind of schedule on purpose to get ready for this time of year.”

Latta’s playoff run last spring ended sooner than Foster would have liked, with the Lady Panthers losing in the first round of the state tournament, and he and his club will begin the postseason in what he said could be one of the toughest districts in the state.

“I thought we had a good chance of playing on the last day (in the state title game) last year, and that didn’t work out,” Foster recalled. “This year, if we get consistent, we can go back. We know what it takes to go back, and we have to just go do it.

“This will be by far the toughest district we’ve had since I’ve been here,” added Foster, who is in his fifth year at Latta and has made three previous spring state tournament appearances. “Savannah has had state tournament teams in the past, and I hear they’re playing pretty well right now. Vanoss beat us once, so they know they can do it. I like our chances, but I know if you don’t go play it can be over in a hurry. We just can’t show up and win. We have to go out and play.”

The district tournament at Latta is one of six involving area teams in Classes A through 5A this week, with Sulphur, Konawa, Roff, Tupelo and Asher also hosting opening-round games.

At Sulphur, Byng (a state semifinalist last spring) and Lindsay will visit the eighth-ranked Lady Bulldogs in the only 5A district involving area teams, while No. 5 Konawa will host Varnum-Strother and Wellston in another 4A district. In Class 2A, No. 6 Roff will be the host squad for a district that includes Stonewall, Wanette and Maud, and Tupelo (ranked No. 3) will host Oklahoma School for the Deaf while Sasakwa and Calvin will visit Asher in district play in Class A.

Latta — forced to replace all-state pitcher Lindsey Abney (who graduated) while playing one of the state’s toughest schedules this spring — has leaned heavily on seniors Chelsey Bennett and Charissa Smith (the team’s three and four-hole hitters) and on junior Stephanie Priest, who took over for Abney and has pitched every game this season.

“Both seniors have stepped up and had real good seasons,” Foster said. “Our two juniors (Priest and Tosha MacCollister) have also had good years. The middle of my lineup has produced all year long, and Stephanie has been throwing strikes.

“The games we’ve lost, we’ve usually had one bad inning,” he added. “That’s something we’re trying to correct.”

Foster (who has no sophomores on his roster) has blended his juniors and seniors with a solid group of freshman, including shortstop Caitlyn James and third baseman Autumn Lawrence, and he said if his team continues to improve, the Lady Panthers could make a lot of noise in Class 4A — which is loaded at the top but pretty wide open everywhere else.

“(Defending state champ) Washington and Mangum (ranked Nos. 1 and 2) are very, very good, but it all depends on who you play,” Foster said in summing up his club’s chance for a title run. On a certain day, we can beat anybody, but the flip side is that, as young as we are, we can be beaten by anybody on a given day.”