WEATHERFORD – For four seasons Caitlyn Deason and Courtney Miller got used to seeing each other on the softball field at Piedmont High School.
So much so they decided to play together in college. Actually, the duo’s choice to play together at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford was the result of a bit of a domino effect.
“We took our visits back to back and we both just loved it,” Miller recalled. “I remember I called coach (Tami) Loy and committed. Then Caitlyn was just kind of like, ‘I love that you’re going there.’ I think that’s when we decided that’s where we should both go.”
Once they were at Southwestern, it didn’t take long for Miller and Deason to find one another in a familiar position. The pair both cracked the starting lineup as freshmen for the Lady Bulldogs.
Recruited as infielders with the potential to play outfield, Miller and Deason both found playing time in the outfield. Miller started 32 of SWOSU’s 44 games while Deason made 11 starts.
But not everything was the same. Coming from a highly successful Piedmont program, Miller and Deason experienced something during their first college season they’d never dealt with before – losing – the Lady Bulldogs lost nine straight games at one point and finished the season 16-36 overall and 10-24 in Great American Conference play.
“It was a lot different,” Deason said. “Courtney and I kind of got through it together because it was tough at times.”
SWOSU head coach Tami Loy said she brought the Piedmont pair into her program because of their talent and because they were used to winning.
“Coach Scott does a great job giving them that winning taste,” she said. “They’re constantly in the state tournament. That’s what we’re trying to bring in, kids that have that desire to push themselves to get to the highest level possible.”
Both players showed flashes of their potential to do just that as freshmen. Miller hit .238, scored 13 runs, drove in four more and swiped 10 bases in 12 attempts.
“Courtney can just be a game changer,” Loy said. “She can get in there and spark something up and make things happen with her speed and tenacity.”
Deason saved her best performance for a game at Cameron University March 26. She started at second base and reached on a walk in her first at-bat. Then, in her second at-bat in the third inning, Deason smashed a two-run home run over the center field fence to give SWOSU a 9-5 lead. But she wasn’t done. In her next plate appearance, Deason hit a home run to left field to make the score 11-8. She would single in the seventh to finish off her three-for –three day at the plate.
“It was really exciting,” Deason said of the performance. “It just kind of happened, but it was a lot of fun.”
There were highs, and there were lows for both players. Miller says looking back, she wishes she wouldn’t have put so much pressure on herself to succeed.
“I kind of hit that freshmen slump. I should’ve stayed confident the whole time,” she said. “I was kind of disappointed in that, but overall I had a good year.”
For Deason, moving from shortstop, a position she’d played her entire life was a big adjustment. As was not starting every game.
She says she called her former high school head coach, Rick Scott, for advice during tough times of the season.
“He just told me to stick with it and that things would be different the next year,” she said.
Miller confided in Scott, too.
“I called him during the season sometimes and said, ‘Coach Scott, I don’t know what’s going on, I’m not playing how I should,’” she said. “He’s been a big help because he’s always so positive.”
Heading into next season, both Miller and Deason have a good chance to start every day as sophomores and could bat first and second in the lineup.
“I think they’re both really going to shine this next year,” Loy said. “They’ve gotten over those first-year jitters. You always see a huge change in a player from their freshmen year to their sophomore year.”