By Blake Colston
Oct 15, 2023
NORMAN – When Keith Coleman left Muskogee to take the Piedmont job in 2016, he did so with one prevailing thought in mind.
“I thought Piedmont could be a gold mine,” he said.
Saturday on the University of Oklahoma’s Marita Hynes Field, on the same turf that coach Patty Gasso has constructed a college dynasty for the ages, Piedmont strengthened its monopoly on prep softball in the state by winning an unprecedented third consecutive state title, while transforming Coleman’s vision for the PHS program into reality.
Senior Peyton Gray delivered the two-RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to drive home the winning run as the top-ranked Lady Wildcats beat Guthrie 3-2.
Piedmont becomes the only team in history to win the Class 5A state title for three straight seasons, and the first large school program to be crowned champion three years in a row since Broken Arrow accomplished the feat from 2001-2003. This is the fourth state championship for PHS since 2019.
“I think it’s a testament to our kids and their work ethic and all of the time and effort they put into it. Kids that work that hard earn their success,” Coleman said. “Everyone says that, but when we say it, I think it’s true.”
Winners of 28-straight to end the season, the Lady ‘Cats finished 39-3 and are 114-13 overall since 2021.
“It’s been an amazing run for these seniors,” Coleman said while thanking Piedmont’s fans, parents and administration for their support. “I think we’ve been the best large school softball team in Oklahoma for the last three years.”
Gray served as the ultimate hero on Saturday, wrapping up her PHS career with an unforgettable moment. Down to her last strike with her team behind 2-1, Piedmont’s cleanup batter jumped on an outside pitch and roped it down the left field line. By the time Guthrie outfielder Ava Hebensperger got to the ball, Taybor Moss had already rounded third and was headed home with history-making run.
“She’s a kid we have a lot of confidence in,” Coleman said of Gray. “She’s been one of our better hitters this weekend and she’s our four-hole for a reason. She embodies what the Piedmont softball program is all about.”
After Moss and leadoff batter Tylar Short did their part by reaching base to start the inning, star pitcher Payten Schibbelhute put down a well-executed sacrifice bunt to advance both into scoring position.
Schibbelhute was in classic form Saturday, shaking off a first-inning score by the Blue Jays by limiting Guthrie to just one solo home run the rest of the way. She improved to 9-0 all-time in state tournament games, finishing this trip allowing only one earned run in 21 innings.
There were plenty of star performances for Piedmont Saturday and throughout the season, but few surpass the work that Schibbelhute has done across her remarkable four-year career.
“She’ll go down as one of the best who has ever played here,” Coleman said. “And for me, she will go down as one of the most mentally tough kids that I’ve ever coached.”
Though a come-from-behind win never seemed out of reach for PHS, Guthrie (30-9) held off the Lady ‘Cats for 25 outs. Schibbelhute kept Piedmont within striking distance until the Lady ‘Cats mounted their decisive rally.
“There were some touchy moments throughout the game,” said Coleman, whose team was outhit 5-4. “But I never got the feeling that our dugout was worried.”
What could possibly be next for Piedmont? The Lady Wildcats still have one more year in Class 5A before joining 6A in 2025, so a record-breaking fourth title will soon probably be in Piedmont’s sights.
But, for now, some celebrations are in order. Don’t expect those to last too long, though.
“We’ll enjoy it for a little bit, but our kids will be back in the weight room on Monday, I can tell you that,” Coleman said.