OKEECHOBEE — Mary Huff knows first-hand what to expect with a high school softball player from the Tribe. It was a little more than a decade ago that she was one herself as a standout for Okeechobee High School.
When Tribal players arrive, they usually come ready to play right away.
“That’s the thing with rez kids, Tribal kids, they’re unreal athletes. When they keep their head on, they can definitely go far. You see Cheyenne (Nunez); she’s doing well,” said Huff, who has been head coach of OHS since the fall of 2013.
Indeed, Nunez was a multi-sport standout for the Brahmans and is now playing NCAA Division I softball for the University of South Carolina Upstate. Huff is a good example, too, having played four years of varsity at OHS and then playing in college.
This year’s team includes two Tribal players: senior Jacee Jumper and sophomore Elle Thomas. Both contributed to the team’s hot start.
Okeechobee won five of its first six games before dropping two games on the same night to different opponents right before the coronavirus outbreak forced the suspension of the season.
Before the twin bill, Huff talked about how she liked Thomas’s versatility, having started her in the outfield and at second and third base.
“She may even move to short,” Huff said.
It didn’t take long for Huff’s words to come true. Thomas started at second base against South Fork in place of a teammate who tore her ACL earlier in the week, but it was only minutes into the game before Thomas shifted to shortstop when starting shortstop Lauren Sills was injured while making a tag at second base.
The move put Thomas right next to Jumper, who started at third.
Huff said Thomas had a strong season a year ago as a freshman and picked up where she left off. In fact, Thomas belted her first high school home run in a win against Fort Pierce Central and she had two hits, including a double, in a win against Centennial.
Jumper hasn’t had too many trips to the plate this season, but is still making an impact. She notched the team’s first hit of the game against South Fork by slicing an opposite field single to right field.
“Jacee hasn’t seen a lot of [playing] time, but whenever she plays, she’s doing well for me. She’s good,” Huff said.
If the season resumes, Okeechobee will be looking to go further than it did a year ago when the Brahmans reached the regional finals.
“We were one game away from state last year and I only lost two seniors, so everybody came back and we even have a couple of new additions,” Huff said. “I think they’re definitely a force to be reckoned with.”