Morrison High is just four wins away from repeating as the Class A fast-pitch softball state champions.
However, the Lady Wildcats are focused on one thing only, and that is Friday’s regional championship game, which is set for 1 p.m. at Morrison.
A win there would wrap up the Lady Wildcats’ second-straight regional title. That’s the only game that matters for Morrison.
“It’s certainly not over, and we have to come back and win a game tomorrow,” Morrison coach JT Freeman said. “This second game is so big and it’s treated like a championship game. The winner of it is in the driver’s seat and the loser of it has to come back and win three tomorrow. We put ourselves in a good position.
“… We talk about win the one in front of you. … The one tomorrow at one o’clock against Waukomis or Vanoss is the one in front of us, and we’re going to go try and take care of business there.”
The Lady Wildcats, ranked No. 2, put themselves in position to clinch the regional with a single win Friday after going 2-0 Thursday. They could lose Friday afternoon, and if so, they’d be forced to play a winner-take-all game immediately after the first.
On Thursday, Morrison (30-2) played like the host team and blanked Waukomis, 12-0. A few hours later, Morrison did nearly the same thing to Vanonss, which is ranked No. 15, winning 8-0.
“I thought we had the intensity and energy today,” Freeman said. “You coach a team long enough, you can tell from the get-go whether they have it or not. I really thought from the minute I got around the girls this morning to hit and get everything ready that they had the right energy and intensity, and they were excited to play. I was thrilled with the effort they brought today.”
Freeman was proud how his team jumped out to an early lead in the second game, and never let up against a good pitcher. His Lady Wildcats continued to put pressure on Vanoss and it showed on the scoreboard.
“The big thing was great pitching and great defense, which is something we talk about all the time that we can control,” Freeman said. “If we play great defense and we pitch it well, we’re pretty tough to beat. The thing I bragged to them on the most was we scored three in the first and we kept tacking runs on. We scored in four of the six innings we hit against one of the better pitchers in the state, in my opinion.”
Hally Vaughn pitched the second game of the day for Morrison. She’s been the team’s ace, taking over for Kayln Raper, who graduated in the spring.
Vaughn has thrown a lot of innings in Morrison’s 32 games. Thus, Freeman has rested her recently, knowing he’ll need her to make a run toward state and hopefully another state title.
“She’s been doing fantastic,” Freeman said. “We’ve really been resting her the last two weeks, so she had only thrown one inning in the past two weeks until today. The wear and tear of a sophomore season and first time in the circle, so we wanted to rest her at this point if we could. She didn’t throw at all in districts against Davenport. We wanted her to be fresh and I think she is right now. She is a bulldog. She is a competitor. I love having her in the circle, and you’re always going to get her best.”
Lady Warriors win two Thursday
The No. 3-ranked Ripley High softball team also put itself in position to win one game and head back to the state tournament.
Ripley beat Hominy and Olive – both games by a score of 10-0. The Lady Warriors just need a win in the regional title game at noon Friday to advance to OKC for state next week.
“We came out today with a really good mentality,” Hoffman said. “We played loose and played to our abilities. Overall, it was the best we’ve been as far as all three facets with our pitching, defense and offensive production one through nine. We played great today.”
The Lady Warriors (34-5) won 16-consecutive games before losing two of four games. They’ve responded with three-straight wins, including one over Perkins-Tryon.
They will play the winner of Hominy and Olive at noon. The if-necessary game is slated for 2 p.m., if needed.
“We talk all the time about how we want to be playing well at the right time,” Hoffman said. “The girls had a good mentality about them today. They were all locked in and had a lot of focus on them.”