Delayed by neighborhood shooting, Okemah 12u and 8u advance to state
Of all the motivational speeches that coach Anthony Gaxiola rehearsed, inspiring his kids to overcome the fear of a neighborhood shooting probably wasn’t in the original script. Yet that’s a message that had to be delivered after Friday night’s game was postponed due to a shooting that took place near Bateman Park in Okmulgee.
While a game was being played at the time of the incident, fortunately, the Okemah 12u softball team known as 0-Town, were not yet at the field. Coach Gaxiola stated that an Okemah parent had pulled into the parking lot at the time of the shooting and warned everyone else to stay away. Gaxiola had the team meet at Walmart and a decision was made to cancel the remaining games for the night, out of an abundance of caution.
The Okmulgee police department reported that no one was struck by the gunfire, nor was anything inside the ballpark hit. Two suspects in a white four-door Nissan were apprehended and the case was referred to the FBI due to both individuals being tribal members.
Coach Gaxiola made a push to relocate the remaining games to Okemah, but the Tri-County Youth Softball organization declined that request, opting to keep the games in Okmulgee with the assurance that security would be provided. Delaina McGirt, whose daughter pitches for O-Town, stated that despite the incident, she had no reservations about returning to the field. “The crazies can’t win by making us be afraid,” McGirt said. Delaina also added that not returning would have forfeited their opportunity to go to state, “our girls have worked too hard all season, this was our goal for our team, make it to state.”
With more resolve than any child should ever have to muster, O-Town took the field on Saturday, overcoming their own anxiety and 100-degree heat to finish second in the Tri-County Youth Softball tournament, qualifying them for the OK Kids Softball State Tournament. The 12u state tournament will be hosted in Ada and begins on Thursday, June 23 with O-Town playing the Latta Lady Panthers at 4:30.
Okemah O-Town finished their season 18-3-1. Members of the team include Journey Strobel, Maddi McGirt, Serenity Scott, Leighton Chavez, Skylar Swayze, Addi Foster, Kallie Gaxiola, London Reilly, Reagan England, Lexi Parrish, and Tempe Parker. Anthony Gaxiola serves as the teams coach and Jared Swayze the assistant coach.
Joining O-Town at the state tournament will be The Future, Okemah’s 8u softball team. The Future defeated Twin Hills, Wetumka, and Morris to win the Tri-County Youth Softball 8u championship, held in Wetumka on Saturday. The Future went 15-6 on the year and will travel to Stroud for the OK Kids Softball tournament.
The 8u state tournament begins on Thursday, June 23, but The Future won’t take the field until Friday at 2:30 where they will take on the winner between the Oilton Express and BFDC Lady Eagles game.
Members of The Future include Brileigh Harjo, Avery Yahola, Savanna Duncan, Scarlett Magness, Raegan Chestra, Blair Thompson, Sophia Vansant, Brailynn Yahola, Addy Atkinson, Mikelyn Teel, Whitney Stone, Athena Lowe, and Abree Dyer. Acee Young serves as head coach for The Future with Cody Young and Simmon Harjo as assistant coaches.