OKLAHOMA CITY – Morrison High’s bid to become the first Class A team to repeat as fast-pitch softball state champions in seven years fell short Thursday afternoon.
Unfortunately for the Lady Wildcats, it did so in dramatic fashion. They blew a three-run lead in the seventh inning before falling 7-6 in an 11-inning contest to open the state tournament. It was Morrison’s first extra-inning game of the season.
Morrison coach JT Freeman was obviously devastated, but he remained positive in his postgame speech and about the game in general.
“I told them, ‘This is the team I’d pick to be here with if I could pick,’” Freeman said. “Nothing changes with that. I’d still go to battle with them any time.”
It’s been at least six years since the defending state champ made the Class A title game the next year. Davenport repeated as champ in 2013.
Morrison was attempting to do the same, but rare miscues in the field and the inability to get timely hits doomed the No. 2 team in the state. Morrison led 6-3 heading into the seventh inning before committing two errors in the seventh that allowed Sterling to rally and force extra innings.
A single, double and RBI groundout cut the lead to two runs. Then a dropped fly ball in shallow center field, a foul fly ball and another error on a groundball allowed Sterling to tie the game.
“It was unfortunate that in the top of the seventh we had a couple of defensive miscues,” Freeman said. “We talk about never making excuses, but the field was very, very hard, and with that last ground ball and with the spin on it, it was parking lot hard and off the bat I knew it was going to be tough. The dirt played harder than I expected it to, but we still want to make those plays, and those are kids that make those plays more times than not. It was just a physical miscue that happened at a bad time.”
Morrison put a runner on base in each of the extra innings, including a leadoff double in the final two innings. The Lady Wildcats had runners at first and third with one out in the 10th, but a groundball back to the pitcher resulted in an out at home.
In the 11th, Sterling’s Jadyn Nunley hit a two-out single and stole second base before Kenley Geiger hit the go-ahead RBI single.
Morrison’s Hally Vaughn led off the bottom of the 11th with a double down the left field line. The next two batters flied out, and a strikeout ended the game.
“I liked where we were at getting the leadoff double with two, three and four coming up,” Freeman said. “We hit the ball hard, but GG (Flanagan) hit it right where the left fielder was standing, and that’s the game sometimes.”
Morrison took control of the game in the sixth inning, taking a 6-3 lead. After two quick outs, Josie Burton reached first on a fielding error. Toni Williams came in as a pinch hitter and delivered with an RBI triple. Vaughn followed with an RBI double to score Rylee Hughes, who ran for Williams, who pinch hit for Hughes.
“That was a great moment for a freshman to get a pinch hit at-bat in the state tournament and come up with a big triple and RBI,” Freeman said. “I’m happy for her that got her chance and cashed in on it.”
The Lady Wildcats’ finished their season 31-3. They lose only a single senior, and only two other players are upperclassmen. They’ve gone 65-7 during the past two seasons and made their only two state appearances in program history.
“Their whole adult is going to be about how you handle adversity and how you bounce back from it,” Freeman said. “Abby is our only senior and she’s going to go play college softball somewhere. That was nobody’s last game ever.”