By BEN JOHNSON
Don’t be surprised if there is a campaign started at Tahlequah High School to get Carl Albert moved up to Class 6A in the near future.
OK, not really.
But it’s likely not a stretch to think that Tahlequah’s softball team could conjuring up that notion at this very moment. After all, it’s been Carl Albert that has blocked the path to potentially three straight softball titles at Tahlequah High School.
Such was the case again in 2013.
After reaching the 5A semifinals in dramatic fashion — a 5-2 win over Chickasha in the first round, thanks to Randee O’Donnell’s three-run home run in the seventh, Tahlequah met up with the Lady Titans in the semifinals. And like three out of the last four years, Carl Albert sent Tahlequah home with a trophy.
“Carl Albert has a great program,” Tahlequah coach Matt Cloud said. “They will always be tough.”
Carl Albert ended up beating Deer Creek, 13-0, for the 5A crown — Carl Albert’s fifth since 2006.
In 2010, Carl Albert knocked Tahlequah out of pool play at the 5A state tournament. The next year — after the state tournament switched to a single-elimination format — Carl Albert beat Tahlequah 17-7 in the championship game.
Then Tahlequah ran into Carl Albert again this season.
The defeat this year marked the end of five fastpitch careers for the Lady Tigers. Catcher Whitney Wright, third baseman Lainey Wallace, center fielder Marisa Girdner, left fielder Caitlin Chuculate and shortstop O’Donnell — an Oklahoma State commit — wrapped their Tahlequah tenures a game from the championship.
But it was because of them that Tahlequah made it as far as it did.
“These seniors made seven state tournament appearances,” Cloud said of his outgoing group, which will still have a chance to make one more state tournament in slowpitch in the spring.
“They did everything asked of them. At the end of the game against Carl Albert, I was upset we got beat. But I was more upset for the seniors that it is over. But at least we have slowpitch.”
Wrapping up its season at 37-5, Tahlequah won its fourth straight regional title. The Lady Tigers came up just short of nabbing the District 5A-3 crown, finishing in a tie with Claremore atop the standings (Claremore swept the season series with Tahlequah).
“We had a good year,” Cloud said. “Played as tough a schedule as anyone; just couldn’t get past Carl Albert.”
With key components such as second baseman Kirsten Chase, first baseman Kortney Dry and pitchers, Lindsay Wade and Morgan Tarrance, all slated to return, Cloud’s job is to now find players to replace the outgoing seniors.
“Now we have to work harder with five girls graduating.”