Tahlequah Daily Press

April 11, 2014

Tahlequah rallies to beat top-ranked Tushka

Sports Editor

— MUSKOGEE — Erin Dillard flied out and Marisa Girdner grounded out. In an instant, Tahlequah was faced with the possibility of not scoring in the seventh inning, with Tushka having a chance to walk off with a victory in the bottom half of the frame.

That’s when Tahlequah coach Matt Cloud bellowed out a message for his ball club.

“We can start a two-out rally,” Cloud shouted to his team that was within earshot in the third-base dugout.

And that’s preciously what Class 6A No. 4 Tahlequah did.

Randee O’Donnell hit a double off the center-field wall, and Kirsten Chase brought her home on a single to center field. The Lady Tigers took their first lead at 5-4 and held on to win by that final score against 3A No. 1 Tushka at the Festival of Champions at Muskogee High School on Friday afternoon.

“That’s a big win mainly because we weren’t playing the best [like] we have been,” Cloud said. “But we found a way to win and made some plays.”

The loss for Tushka was its first of the season. The victory bumped Tahlequah’s record to 21-4 with the weekend off.

Early on it appeared as though Tahlequah was going to become Tushka’s first win against a 6A team. Tushka’s three-run rally in the first inning was kick-started by an error on Chase at second base. Kelsey Chambers reached base on the error and eventually scored on Sadi Avants’ two-run triple, which also scored Jayden Eaves.

Adding to its lead in the second inning, Tushka posted its fourth run when Peyton Mobbs scored on a double by Eaves to left field. Tahlequah appeared to have Mobbs cut down at home plate, but Tahlequah catcher Bub Peters dropped the relay throw, allowing Mobbs to score.

Tahlequah entered the third frame trailing by four runs. But Tahlequah never sounded any crisis sirens.

“I don’t think we panicked at all,” Cloud said. “We hit some balls well. I think we were very mature in our approach and just grinded one out.”

Tushka wouldn’t score the rest of the way. Tahlequah, instead, did the rest of the run-scoring.

Two Tushka errors led to Tahlequah’s first run, which occurred when Tushka left fielder Courtney Cook dropped a fly ball by Whitney Wright, allowing Chase to score.

Tahlequah would later tie the game up with a three-run fifth inning. Caitlin Chuculate got things started with a double to right-center. Chase, Wright and Kortney Dry each drove in a run in the inning.

“Chuc is our steady Eddie,” Cloud said. “She never gets rattled, makes every play and comes up with big hits while hitting down in the order.”

In fact, it was Chuculate that squeezed the final out in her glove when Avants flied out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Tahlequah opened the day in Muskogee with a 12-2 run-rule victory over Class A No. 8 Arapaho-Butler, which opened the game with a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Lady Tigers rallied, though, with runs in the first and third innings before playing nine runs in the fourth frame.

Girdner logged a game-high four hits for Tahlequah, a team that had 19 hits and had everyone in the lineup record at least one hit. O’Donnell, Dry, Peters, Lindsay Wade and Girdner each drove in two runs apiece for Tahlequah.

Next up for Tahlequah is a pair of games in Henryetta on Monday night. Tahlequah will take on Preston and Henryetta starting at 5 p.m.