ADA — It was kind of a good news, bad news situation for the 17th-ranked Ada High fast-pitch softball team when the Class 5A Regional Tournament pairings were released last week.

The good news was that the Lady Cougars avoided road trips to No. 1 Carl Albert, No. 2 Bixby, No. 3 Skiatook, No. 4 Deer Creek, No. 5 Catoosa and No. 6 Shawnee and instead get to travel to Coweta, the home of the seventh-ranked Lady Tigers.

The bad news — Coweta is the two-time defending Class 5A state champions.

“It probably sounds crazy to say we’re glad to be going there,” Ada head coach Sharon Dean said. “But I don’t want to go where Shawnee is or where Carl Albert is or where Skiatook is or other top teams like that.”

Joining Ada and Coweta in the four-team regional field are No. 10 Pryor and No. 26 Tulsa East Central. The regional begins Wednesday with Coweta meeting East Central at 10 a.m. and Ada facing Pryor at noon. The losers will meet in a 2 p.m. elimination game while the winners will play at 4 p.m.

Games are scheduled for noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Thursday.

“It’s as favorable a draw as we can have,” Dean said. “If I were to sit and look at the eight regionals, and they asked me to pick one, this is the one I would have picked.”

Coweta has actually won three of the four Class 5A state titles with crowns in 2002, 2004 and 2005. Claremore was the 2003 champion.

“Coweta isn’t as dominant as they have been. They’ll be good and playing at their place and they will have the advantage, but you have to go up there and mix it up and see what happens,” Dean said.

The Lady Cougars enter the regional tournament with a 10-17 record but a rugged schedule has kept Ada in the Top 20 of the 5A rankings all season long.

“Us being ranked in the Top 20 with our record is big. But people respect the fact that we went to Shawnee and played No. 1 Carl Albert and went to Skiatook and played No. 3. We don’t back off,” Dean said.

Thanks to graduation, defections and injuries, the Lady Cougars enter the postseason with just two full time players from their 2005 squad — catcher Jenny Bolin and first baseman Lauren Whitworth.

In fact, in their final regular season game — a 9-1 loss to No. 13 Durant last week — Ada’s game-ending lineup featured a freshman, six sophomores and two juniors (Bolin and Lauren Whitworth).

“Of the group we took to regionals last year, I’ve got Lauren Whitworth and Jenny Bolin with any kind of experience. Shelbey (Franz) played for us at the end of last season, but she was injured most of the year,” Dean said. “You look out there and say ‘Who has experience?’ and there’s just not a whole lot.”

Even with the youthful bunch, Dean believes her team can makes some noise in the regional if the Lady Cougars can put some runs on the board.

“We’ve got to play for seven innings and scratch out a run or two. You don’t have to have 10 runs to win,” she said. “But when you get people on base, you have to get them in.”

Sophomore Lindsey Elliott has shouldered much of the pitching load for Ada this fall, but Dean said fellow sophomore Rainee Easley and freshman Hanna Huling could be called upon to work some regional innings as well.

Bolin, one of Class 5A’s top backstops, has led the Ada offense this fall. She is hitting .338 with five doubles, two triples, 12 RBIs and 12 stolen bases while scoring 14 runs. Third baseman Shaina Billy is next at .284 with five doubles, a triple and 12 RBIs.

Midway through the season, Ada endured a 32-inning scoreless streak. But over the past few weeks, the offense had picked it up a notch.

“We’re putting the ball in play a lot better. And we’ve seen some good pitching,” Dean said. “I think they’re going to be OK. We’re just going to go up there and see what happens.”

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