Tahlequah moved to within one win of a Class 5A Regional Tournament championship Wednesday with wins over Tulsa Nathan Hale and McAlester.
The Lady Tigers, who have won their last seven games and improved to 26-9 overall, blasted Hale, 18-0, behind a no-hitter from senior pitcher Kloie Vertz, and upended McAlester, 7-0, in a winner's bracket game behind a great outing from junior pitcher Mikah Vann.
Tahlequah will face the McAlester/Collinsville winner in the regional championship game Thursday at 2 p.m. McAlester and Collinsville play an elimination game at noon Thursday. McAlester defeated Collinsville, 11-4, in Wednesday's second game, and Collinsville bounced back to defeat Hale, 15-0, in Wednesday's loser's bracket game. An if-necessary game would be at 4 p.m. Thursday.
"In the first game [against Hale] I told the kids to just go out in a workmanlike manner and take care of business," said Tahlequah head coach Chris Ray. "We knew who the better team was. You just got to go out, keep your head down and do the little things.
"We barreled a bunch of balls all night [against McAlester]. Mikah and the defense was dialed in."
The Lady Tigers got all they would need offensively in the third inning against McAlester and received a complete-game shutout from Vann in the pitcher's circle.
"Once we put that three spot on the board I pretty much felt comfortable at that point," Ray said.
Senior Mia Allen delivered a two-run single to right field to spark Tahlequah in the third. She brought home Hailey Enlow, who led off with a single, and Charlea Cochran, who reached on a fielder's choice. Amelia Miller followed with a run-scoring double to right to drive in Jadyn Buttery, who got aboard on a single.
Vann, who hadn't allowed a single base runner until McAlester got a single with two outs in the sixth, recorded 10 strikeouts, gave up one hit and did not issue a walk.
The Lady Tigers added two runs apiece in the fourth and sixth innings to close the door. Lexi Hannah and Jayley Ray led off with back-to-back doubles and scored runs in the fourth, and Vann and Enlow knocked in a run apiece in the sixth.
Vertz, in her first appearance in the pitcher's circle this season, was nearly perfect in a no-hitter against Hale. Vertz finished with 13 strikeouts across five innings. Her only blemishes were consecutive one-out walks in the first inning. Vertz struck out 12 of the final 13 batters she faced.
The Lady Tigers put the contest out of reach in the opening frame with 11 runs, which was highlighted by an inside-the-park home run by Jersey Retzloff. Ray, Cochran and Buttery each had singles in the first inning, and Tahlequah reached base five times on walks and twice after being hit by a pitch.
Tahlequah added two more runs in the second where it received a double from Amelia Miller, scored four times in the third where it was lifted by back-to-back home runs from Jordan Bread and Miller, and scored once in the fourth inning.
The Lady Tigers, who closed with 11 hits, were paced by Ray, Buttery, Allen and Miller with two hits apiece.