OKTAHA — For the host Lady Tigers, it was a different day altogether from their eight-inning opener on Monday.
For the visiting Lady Tigers, it was about seizing enough moments with a bit of an eye-opening lineup in their season opener.
Jordan Hayes cracked a two-run double with one out in the seventh for Fort Gibson and after Bayleigh James reached on a fielding error by pitcher Cayton Sloan, Nia Polzin doubled home a pair. The five-run inning erased a two-run deficit and then Courtney Hill retired Oktaha in order in the bottom of the frame to win 10-7.
Oktaha (1-1) was coming off an eight-inning win at Muskogee on Monday, one in which they played errorless ball while Sloan scattered four hits. In this contest, four of Fort Gibson's runs were unearned. Oktaha had four errors.
Oktaha posted a four-run first, highlighted by RBI singles from Brynn Surmont and Karli Ashing, and held that 4-0 lead until Fort Gibson answered with four in the third. Fort Gibson took a 5-4 lead on Polzin’s solo home run in the fourth.
A three-run sixth put Oktaha back up up, all without the benefit of a hit. Karley Fewel reached on an error at short by Bayleigh James, an error at third by Erica Hornback followed with two outs off a grounder by Mya Allen. Back-to-back walks by Hill pushed across a run, Jocelynn Williams hit into a fielder’s choice to score run and Surmont scored on a wild pitch.
Hill redeemed herself with a single that pushed Hayes, the go-ahead run in the seventh, to third. It was one of two hits for the fourth-year pitcher who has seldom if ever picked up a bat as a high school player.
Outside of the cages, so says coach Joe Obregon.
So, hitting cleanup?
“Just doing what coach tells me,” said Hill, who added she doesn’t hit on her travel ball team either. “No pressure because I haven’t hit the past four years, ever.”
Polzin, meanwhile, looked like a cleanup bat in the seven hole with a team-best three RBIs.
“On the home run ball I had to scoot up on the plate because my coach told me she was going to pitch outside. The (hit in the seventh) was inside. I just try and work hard for the team whatever spot Im in.”
Obregon didn’t mince words about Hill.
“I know she can hit. She’s in the cages, she does all the same drills as the others,” Obregon said.
Hannah Thouvenel was 3-for-4 in the two hole behind Gracie Williams, who was 2-for-4.
Oktaha coach Kia Holmes, whose squad looked early like a 2-0 start was coming its way, shrugged at the contrast between her team’s first two outings.
“Our bats went cold after that first inning. It was like we got satisfied,” she said. “Defensively I think we made mistakes at crucial times but overall didn’t play that bad.”
Hill scattered six hits and walked three, Four of her seven runs were unearned. Sloan gave up 10 hits, struck out five and walked two.
“Cayton has thrown a lot in two days, this early, and a good eight innings yesterday,” Holmes said. “I probably should have given her a break late. That’s on me. Even coaches make mistakes.”
Surmont was 3-for-3 and Ashing 2-for-3 to lead Oktaha.
“This is a good matchup for our area, playing a good team like Karli, and I think we’re going to be good,” said Obregon, who lost four starters off last year’s quarterfinalist in Class 4A.
“We lost four but we gained some good young players,” Thouvenel said. “I think we’ll be good.”
Fort Gibson is in the Broken Arrow Invitational later this week. Oktaha is in an early season Big Eight Conference tournament starting Thursday at Vian.