By BEN JOHNSON
All that’s left now is the playoffs.
Class 6A No. 2 Tahlequah closed out regular-season play on Monday with a sweep of 6A No. 15 Stilwell, 8-0 and 15-0. The Lady Tigers will carry a 19-game winning streak into the postseason.
Yet, the only streak Tahlequah coach Matt Cloud is chasing after now is a run of six straight victories to close out the campaign.
“That’s kind of where we’re at,” he said.
Three wins later this week will send Tahlequah to its 21st straight state tournament. Three more victories on May 1 will give the Lady Tigers their first state championship since 2006.
“I think the progression of this team has been the greatest since I’ve been here,” Cloud said. “We’ve always had good players, but we’ve gotten so much better. And it shows. I think that’s a tribute to the type of players that we have; they’re willing to work and willing to listen.”
In Tahlequah’s first game against Stilwell, Kirsten Chase drove in three runs — one on a single in the third inning and two on a double to left field in the fourth frame.
The Lady Tigers took control with three runs in the second inning. Two more runs in the third inning and three in the fourth slammed the door shut on Stilwell.
The second game featured a nine-run first inning for the Lady Tigers. And six more runs in the third frame brought the run-rule into play.
Tahlequah banged out 19 hits, with everyone in the lineup getting at least one apiece. Britney Johnson, Randee O’Donnell and Kortney Dry each had three hits while Lindsay Wade drove in three runs. Lainey Wallace and Marisa Girdner both had two RBIs, and it was Girdner’s run-scoring single that brought the game to a close.
The two wins on Monday improved Tahlequah’s record to 34-2 overall and 3-0 against Stilwell. The two neighboring-county rivals will likely clash again Thursday when Tahlequah hosts a 6A regional tournament.
“We wanted to play (Monday), just like we wanted to play Fort Gibson on Friday to get more information,” Cloud said. “Stilwell has beaten some people, and now we have more information on them. I think if we put our kids in good situations, with our defense, it helps us that much more.”
Sallisaw and Fort Gibson will be the other two teams at the regional later in the week.
The bottom line for Tahlequah: the next week and a half is what really counts.
“Most of these kids, except for the freshmen, have been in a regional-type setting and a state tournament-type setting, and I think that’s going to benefit us,” Cloud said. “I think we just keep plugging along.”