Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

May 5, 2012

COMMENTARY: Sequoyah keeps low profile en route to title

OKLAHOMA CITY — It was only a matter of time.

At some point there was bound to be some renovation in the trophy case at Sequoyah’s Place Where They Play.

While the smart money would have been on basketball, football or track, the slowpitch softball team transformed three upsets at the state tournament into a Class 5A state championship.

“We were just happy to be here, honestly,” said Sequoyah rover Saharra Henson, whose team beat 5A No. 2 Morris 5-1 in the championship game on Tuesday.

“We honestly didn’t care if we won; we were just happy to be here.”

Before the Lady Indians paid Morris back for a 2-1 setback during the regional finals, Sequoyah handed defending 4A champ Washington its walking papers and dispatched of Purcell — the team that eliminated Sequoyah in the 2010 state tournament — in the semifinals.

“Getting past Purcell was a big step,” Sequoyah coach Larry Grigg said.

No. 9 Sequoyah didn’t enter the state-tournament field as the lowest seeded team, No. 10 Heavener and No. 11 Chandler were lower in the pecking order. But the Lady Indians might have been the least suspecting team to race to a title.

Unlike most teams that reach the slowpitch state tournament, Sequoyah doesn’t rely heavily on the long ball. Instead, it uses impenetrable defense and precision-like hitting for singles and doubles.

Compared to Westmoore and Dale (the 6A and 4A champions, respectively), Sequoyah is the definition of team reliant upon small ball — or at least as close to small ball as you can get in slowpitch.

The Lady Indians’ really only definition of pop in their lineup lies with hitters, Henson and Mariah Hooper. Girls like Baylee Ratliff, Kara Linch, Jamie Linch, Feather Pacheco, Megan Towie and Kelsey Leach are most apt to hit singles and occasionally find a gap for a double or a triple.

But that system works for Sequoyah — obviously.

Sure, it didn’t work all the time for the Lady Indians, since they lost 10 regular-season games and one playoff game. But when all your losses come to 6A’s elite — Tahlequah (four times), Muskogee, Union (twice), Westmoore and Broken Arrow — the system is bound to fail from time to time.

But despite the losses to those state-tournament clubs, save for a loss to Poteau during the regular season, Grigg knew what his team was capable of.

“Our kids weren’t highly ranked, but we’ve been playing Tahlequah, Westmoore, Union, Muskogee,” Grigg said. “And those were our loses. Our kids can play with anybody, even though our record isn’t glossy.”

A promising sign for Sequoyah, in both fastpitch and slowpitch, is that every player returns in 2012-2013, except for Henson and Keisha Jones, Millie Chuculate, Fallon Wright and Jasmine Rios.

Henson won’t be easy to replace but girls like Leach, Ratliff and Kara Linch will help fill the void.

So, don’t be surprised if Sequoyah’s 2012 slowpitch state championship trophy gets more company in the coming years.

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