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February 2023
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Birch Signs Letter of Intent for Haskell Indian Nations University Softball Program

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Tribal member Erin Birch has completed her high school career as a standout softball player for Anadarko (Okla.) High School. Whether it's shortstop, second base or outfield, Birch has the respect of both coaches and teammates. Her honors include earning an all-district utility player selection, all-region selection, and the High School State Academic Achievement Award.


On Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, Birch gained another honor that will allow her to continue both her softball career and keep wearing purple and gold. This honor is signing her letter of intent to play softball for Haskell Indian Nations University.


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The official signing included Haskell's head softball coach, Gary Tanner; Anadarko head softball coach Penny Salazar; parents Bruce Birch and Beth Parker; sister Alex Birch; Wichita President Terri Parton; and Anadarko High School teachers, administrators and softball teammates.




Birch said that her primary reasons for being recruited were "my speed and my hitting," she said. Birch said that the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Cameron University were both considered in her decision process. However, "Haskell really wanted me, so I signed with them," Birch said.


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Tanner, who served as Haskell's head softball coach from 2000-2011, has now returned as head coach for the 2018 season. For Tanner, speed is a major need for his future team, and Birch will be a great fit.


"I'm looking for some certain players with characteristics, and she has quite a few of them I'm looking for to build this program," Tanner said. "She's got speed, and I'm looking for speed. That's the first thing I do to build a team. She's got skills at the plate that uses her speed."


Tanner said that he sees Birch as an immediate fit as a lead-off batter and an outfielder. In addition, he sees Birch as a way for Haskell to return to recruiting Southwest Oklahoma's Native athletes.


"We wanted to get back into this area, and she was a good starting point for us," Tanner said. "We hope that she comes up, she's successful, she likes it, and she's telling her people. This gives us a good recruiting base where there's a lot of Native Americans who are good athletes. I wanted a foot in the door, and she's a good way to do it."


Birch's father, Bruce Birch, said, "I am so happy for her. She loves softball. When she heard that she had the chance to go to Haskell, she just lit up. It's all she's been talking about." Birch also said that his daughter already has friends there who attend. When the family visited the Haskell campus for the alumni game, "all of the teammates there treated us like she's been playing there already," he said.


Erin Birch Framed Photos


Birch's mother, Beth Parker, shared in the family's sense of joy. "I'm happy for her," Parker said. "I'm excited for her more than anything else."


Parker said Birch began in the sport through t-ball around age five and that for her daughter, Haskell is the best fit based on her experiences with trying out for the team.


"When she went to try out, it just seemed that's where she was the most comfortable," Parker said. "She knows the girls already."


While seeing her daughter sign for Haskell softball is a great achievement, Parker also emphasized the importance of academics.


"First of all, I want her to be successful academically," she said. "That's the main reason she's going, first, is for academics. Then I want her to succeed in her sport."


Birch said that her favorite subjects are math and English. "I understand them," she said, and that she plans to major in sports medicine.


Salazar, Birch's high school coach, praised her .300 batting average and fielding, but also had good things to say about Birch's sense of character and willingness to share her knowledge of the game with other players.


"What makes her stand out above everybody else is her passion for the game and her positivity," Salazar said. "She is a true leader and a teammate to all of those girls. She absolutely will be hard to replace because of those things."


Salazar also added, "if anyone could be perfect, it would be her."