Tahlequah will be in search of its third straight regional tournament championship and state tournament berth beginning Wednesday when it hosts a Class 5A Regional Tournament.
The Lady Tigers, who are 19-16 overall and finished 11-1 in District 5A-4 under head coach Chris Ray, closed out the regular season with consecutive wins over Checotah, and more recently, Muskogee on Monday evening.
Tahlequah, the top seed, will face fourth-seeded Tulsa Edison in Wednesday’s opener at noon. No. 2 seed Claremore will take on third-seeded Tulsa Memorial in game two at 2 p.m. The two losers will play at 4 p.m. in an elimination game, and the two winners will play at 6 p.m. to close out Wednesday’s games.
Ray sensed urgency in his team’s approach against Fort Gibson on Oct. 1 and it carried over in the final two games.
“I think this group’s ready to go. You could see a little more pep in their step against Fort Gibson,” he said. “We’re not flashy by any stretch of the imagination. We don’t have kids that are going to go out and hit two or three home runs in a game. We just try to string a few hits together and try to manufacture things. It’s just kinda a blue collar mentality. We’re going to try to force teams to make mistakes and when you do we’re going to try to capitalize on it. We’re going to try to be sharp defensively because we know we have to be. We’re going to pitch it and play to contact.”
The Lady Tigers have been led offensively by lone senior McKenna Wofford and junior Betty Danner.
Wofford leads the team with a .495 batting average, .564 on-base percentage, 41 runs batted in, 14 doubles and four home runs. She has reached base 14 times on walks and has hit safely in 28 games, including a pair of four-hit performances — one of those against Checotah last week.
“She’s probably been our most consistent hitter, hitting around .500 all year,” Ray said. “When she gets an opportunity to drive in a run, she does so. When we need a baserunner she’s willing to draw a walk. She’s been that staple in the lineup that we rely on to produce runs.”
Danner has been at her best over recent games. She has seven hits in her last 11 at-bats with six RBIs. On the season, Danner is hitting .423 with seven doubles, two triples, three home runs, 27 RBIs and has an on-base percentage of .512.
Sophomores Lexi Hannah, Mia Allen, Nevaeh Moreno and Hailey Enlow, and freshmen Mikah Vann and Jayley Ray have each had their moments with the bat as well.
Allen has eight hits in her last 12 at-bats with eight RBIs and is hitting .348 with 21 runs driven in. Hannah is hitting just under the .400 mark at .396 and is third on the team with a .467 on-base percentage.
Junior Savannah Wiggins will miss the regional tournament. Wiggins, who has been a mainstay at the top of the lineup with a .345 batting average and one of the top run producers with 21 RBIs, has missed the last three games after having an appendectomy.
Ray will rely on both Bailey Jones and Vann from the pitcher’s circle.
Jones, a junior, has a 15-12 mark with a 3.65 earned run average, and Vann is 4-4 with an ERA of 4.58. Jones limited Muskogee to four hits and had four strikeouts in a complete-game outing on Monday.
“I made sure a couple of weeks ago to get [Mikah] some meaningful innings,” Ray said. “We threw her against some really tough teams early in the Broken Arrow Tournament. I’ve been doing this long enough to know it’s so much better when you have to kids who can throw it and be comfortable with.
“Typically in a regional you’re going to have to play some team twice and it’s hard to go through a lineup three or four times and be sharp without them getting your timing down. Having both of them, we’ve got as much confidence in one as we do the other to go out there and do a good job and get us outs.”
Edison enters play at 2-13 overall. The Lady Eagles went 1-11 in District 5A-3. Claremore is 18-12 overall and had a 7-5 mark in 5A-3, and Memorial finished its regular season at 6-15 and 2-10 in 5A-4.