By BEN JOHNSON
The final bus ride home was a long one for Tahlequah’s softball team in 2012.
A 6-2 loss to Chickasha in Oklahoma City occupied the minds of all the Tahlequah players and coaches. It was also a defeat that featured six fielding errors, which played a large part in Tahlqeuah’s season ending in the state quarterfinals.
This year, Tahlequah gets another shot at the Fighting Lady Chicks. The two clubs will square in this year’s edition of the Class 5A state tournament at 5 p.m. on Thursday at The Ball Fields at Firelake in Shawnee.
For Tahlequah, the top priority isn’t payback; it’s putting forth a quality game.
“Chickasha is a tough opponent,” Tahlequah coach Matt Cloud said. “I don’t think we are looking for revenge, but we definitely owe them a better game.”
Chickasha used the win over Tahlequah last season to propel itself into the 5A finals where it lost to Grove. This year, the Fighting Lady Chicks sport a 28-5 record while having won nine of their last 10 games.
“I have gotten lots of info from various teams,” Cloud said of Chickasha, “and we have at what they are good at.”
Tahlequah has won eight of its last nine with the only loss occurring against Coweta in the regional tournament last week.
Although, when asked where his team is confidence-wise heading into the state tournament, Cloud said, “I think with the rain it is tough to know where we stand confidence-wise. This group has been to a few state tournaments and with it not being at the Hall of Fame (stadium), it may be good for us. We have practiced inside the last two days, but we have done a lot of live stuff.”
It’ll be Tahlequah’s fourth straight trip to the state tournament. On the same side of the bracket of the Lady Tigers is also Carl Albert and Lawton MacArthur. Claremore and Duncan will square off in a quarterfinal game on the other side of the bracket, and Collinsville and Deer Creek will get the tournament started at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
“I think the field has a lot of the usual suspects,” Cloud said. “There are high-quality teams and coaches in the field.”
Class 5A state tournament
All games on Field 2 at The Ball Fields at Firelake in Shawnee
Game 1: Collinsville vs. Deer Creek, 11 a.m.
Game 2: MacArthur vs. Carl Albert, 1 p.m.
Game 3: Claremore vs. Duncan, 3 p.m.
Game 4: Tahlequah vs. Chickasha, 5 p.m.
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, noon.
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 2 p.m.
Game 7: Championship game, 1:30 p.m.