By BEN JOHNSON
Marisa Girdner dropped down a bunt right in front of home plate and sprinted up the first-base line. Collinsville catcher Darci Chester picked up the ball and threw to first baseman Rachel Griffin.
On a bang-bang play with two outs in the seventh inning, Girdner was called safe by the infield umpire.
Tahlequah lived to see another pitch. Collinsville — not knowing Girdner was called safe for a brief second — celebrated a District 5A-3 win on the road.
After both teams settled back in, Tahlequah’s Whitney Wright and Randee O’Donnell delivered crushing blows while leading Tahlequah to a come-from-behind, 5-4 victory at Lady Tiger Field on Tuesday afternoon.
Wright, with two outs and Girdner as the tying run on first base, blasted a triple down the left-field line to tie the game.
“I just kept telling myself, ‘calm down and stay back,’” Wright said. “I’ve been struggling hitting, and I’ve been struggling because I pull-pull everything. I guess I’m just real antsy at the plate.”
Her willingness to pull bailed her out in the seventh. Wright’s shot went right over the third-base bag, bringing O’Donnell to the dish with a chance to win the game.
O’Donnell — an Oklahoma State commit who committed an error in the top of the seventh inning, which led to one of Collinsville’s two runs in the frame — let Collinsville hurler Gail Young throw two fastballs by her before she geared up to swing.
“I don’t know why I watched (those pitches),” O’Donnell said. “I watched them and thought, ‘what am I doing?’ I was just hoping that (Young) would give me another opportunity to hit it.”
Young did and O’Donnell came through.
After hitting a game-tying home run in the sixth inning, O’Donnell lined a single to left field to score Wright from third.
For Tahlequah (28-2, 10-1 District 5A-3), a win helped the Lady Tigers atone for a home loss to district foe, Claremore, last week.
“This district is a tough district,” Tahlequah coach Matt Cloud said. “If you have an off day, anybody can beat anybody.”
Claremore, sitting a game back of Tahlequah in the standings, beat Grove on Tuesday to set up a showdown for first place on Thursday in Claremore.
“The top four spots are wide open. They really are,” said Cloud, who is trying to ward off Coweta, Collinsville and Pryor for at least a top-two spot in 5A-3. “If you look at it, anybody could be the champion and anybody could be the runner-up and anybody could be in fourth place. So it’s going to be a dogfight.”
Tahlequah moved closer to the district crown by topping Collinsville (18-16, 5-6). Morgan Tarrance picked up the pitching victory after the Lady Tigers fought off any possible panic in the final frame.
“I think we were a little shocked; I don’t think there’s a doubt about that,” said Cloud, whose team watched Sydnie McClelland and Rylee DeLozier drive in runs in the top half of the seventh to give Collinsville a 4-2 lead.
“But it’s a game of highs and lows, and we preach it from May on: don’t get too high and don’t get too low, because this game is a game of failure and you’re going to fail more than you succeed.”
Tahlequah followed that model and prevailed this time.