By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
It all came down to noon, last Thursday. The Sand Springs Lady Sandite softball team had won 26 games, eight by mercy-rule, five by shutout. They had a 13-1 district record, and by all accounts should have had a clear and easy walk to the Regional title.
Instead, they found themselves 1-1 in a double-elimination tournament on their own home field. After a stunning 2-1 upset by Claremore, the girls barely held on with a 4-3 win over Ponca City. They were still alive in the tournament, but they would have to win a triple header to claim their ticket to state.
To add insult to injury, because it was a playoff game, the “home team” was decided by coin toss. Claremore was the “Sandites” on the scoreboard, and the true Sandites were the visitors on their own diamond.
Kennedy “Goose” Salyers stepped up to the plate. With a resounding crack, the Sandite pitcher nailed a lead-off single into right field. A sacrifice bunt from Stella Millican advanced Salyers to second, and a sacrifice hit by Sydney Pennington brought her to third. Up came Jessica Schuler with the goal of bringing Salyers home and drawing first blood.
Schuler leads the team in homeruns and grand slams this season, but that action would not be seen this inning. A groundball to the Zebra pitcher, Kiley Lawson, was sent to first-baseman Kaylea Carpenter and the Lady Sandites would have to settle for being the first on base.
Next it was Claremore’s turn to try for home plate. With one out on the board, Abbey Mayfield hit a groundball to Pennington at short stop, but instead of being put out on first, she capitalized on a throwing error for the double. Next up was McKenzie Thomas with a single and it was clear that the Zebras had no intention of splitting with the home team. Both runners, however, would be left stranded.
Both teams had brought their offense to this game, but it was the defense that came out on top for the first two innings. The Sandites left Kali Mallory stranded on second in the top of the second inning, and the Zebras left Kassidee Flowers on second in the bottom of the inning. Salyers got the first of her three strikeouts against short-stop Holland Rader.
Finally, in the top of the third, Salyers connected with the center field fence for a double and was soon joined by Stella Millican who drew a walk. Pennington brought home Salyers on a fence-hitting double of her own, but Millican was put out at third on a pass from McKenzie Thomas to Loren Shockley. Schuler was the next batter-up and brought home Pennington with an RBI single into right field. Schuler would be left stranded on first base, but the home team had taken a 2-0 lead, and wouldn’t slow down from there.
Claremore threatened, putting runners on first and second, but Julie Warren was struck out and the Sandites were back at it again.
Jessica Collins found first base on an error by Rader, then Caley Thompson hit a single of her own and once again Collins was the beneficiary of another Zebra error, this time by Thomas.
Kimi Presnell was put out on first after a sacrifice bunt that advanced both runners, then Madelyn Blair stepped up with the biggest hit of the tournament, thus far. Connecting with the left field fence for a 2RBI double, she ended up on second after scoring Collins and Thompson and forcing Claremore to change pitchers.
Lawson ended her time in the game with an 8.408 ERA, a 2.702 WHIP, and a .282 strike percentage.
In her place was Kaleigh Schumacher. Salyers got back on base after bringing Blair home on an RBI single thanks to an error by Brooke Dicus, but she and Millican would both end up stranded.
Schumacher began to demonstrate her skills at the mound, striking out Collins and Blair, and only allowed one more base-hit till the seventh inning. Then she slipped up, and the tide turned back in the Sandites favor.
Schuler was hit by the first pitch of the inning, and curtesy runner Carsidy Perdue took her spot on first base. Then came Kali Mallory, swinging for the fence. Her first swing was a foul ball that completely cleared the neighboring athletic building. The second swing was on point. The ball just barely stayed in the diamond, hitting the fence as Mallory reached second base.
Finally, Collins came to bat for the final score of the game, bunting to bring home Perdue for a 6-0 lead and a sixth Sandite shutout.
Salyers got the win on the mound, allowing no runs, eight hits, and one walk with a 1.285 WHIP and a .406 strike percentage. Schumacher got the loss for Claremore with a 1.912 ERA, a 1.912 WHIP, and a .420 strike percentage.
Sand Springs dominated at the plate with 13 base hits, including four doubles, and a .481 team batting average. Claremore managed only eight hits for nine bases and a .285 batting average. Salyers and Mallory both batted .750 and Millican batted a perfect 1.00.
They had won the battle, but the war was far from over. The celebration was hearty, but it wasn’t long, as the Lady Sandites had only thirty minutes to prepare for the Union Redskins (27-13) who had already beaten them 5-2 in the second game of the season.