Last month’s Wyoming State Softball Tournament could be the penultimate one of its kind.
With Albany County School District No. 1 set to revisit its vote on sanctioning high school softball in the coming weeks and seven high schools already adopting softball programs, Wyoming is a few raises of the hand away from adopting high school softball, sanctioned by the Wyoming High School Activities Association.
And while girls like Dominique Bragg, Annabelle Nicholson and Grace Roberts won’t be able to experience it, they’re thankful that a future generation of girls will.
Those three played on the Casper Voltage Under-18 team this summer. Together they went 2-0 in pool play before being eliminated in three games during the bracket portion of the state tournament. And while the end of the season didn’t go how they dreamed, they’ll forever treasure the experience.
“With fast-pitch you get the bond with the girls,” Bragg explained. “You get the experience of winning, losing, playing on the field. Everything about it.”
That’s something they hope gets taken into consideration during the debates of adding softball. Natrona County School District No. 1 voted to sanction the sport back in April, weeks after its counterparts in Sweetwater, Park and Campbell counties.
That vote was powered by considerable support from the prospective players. Just over 48 percent (713 out of 1,472) students in Natrona County School District said they would participate in fast-pitch softball.
So it’s no surprise that Casper had teams in eight of the nine divisions at this year’s state tournament.
For contrast, the Cheyenne Extreme won its fifth straight U-18 state championship this summer. Its U-10, U-12, U-14 and U-16 affiliates have won a combined 10 state championships since 2014. And yet, a Laramie County School District No. 1 survey shared with the Star-Tribune showed that just over 6 percent of students surveyed responded favorably to playing softball.
A question commonly asked throughout advocates’ push to sanction softball has been ‘What’s the difference?’ Kids already to get to play softball, so why should high schools add them? Well, it’s not only about inequality, it’s about inclusion.
“It would be nice to represent the school you love,” Nicholson lamented. “I don’t really play many sports and this is the one sport I love to play. To hear the announcements at school, all of these awards that everybody got, and to not be part of that, it’s upsetting.”
Nicholson will be a senior at Kelly Walsh for the 2019-20 academic year. Roberts will be at Natrona County, where Bragg just graduated. While they wouldn’t be on the same team had softball been sanctioned this past spring, they enjoyed joking about how they’d have that friendly rivalry they’ll never get to experience.
Each one looked at the younger girls of Casper, hoping the next group would get to experience the same life lessons softball has already instilled in them.
“It’s taught me a lot about dedication, the responsibility of being here every day,” Nicholson said.
Roberts added: “And being accountable, to.”
Bragg gave a more forward reality.
“It’s made me who I am,” the graduated Filly said. “I don’t know where I’d be today without fast-pitch.”
All three then played their final softball game, a second loss in the double-elimination tournament. They walked off the field thankful for the game and faced with the reality of a life without it.