OKLAHOMA CITY – Brooklyn Gobble rounded first base and ran a few steps toward second before sharply turning and sprinting toward the Ripley High dugout.
She saw freshman Dakota Hall slide into home plate and score the game-winning, walk-off run Friday afternoon at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex. Once the Ripley senior pitcher saw her bloop single wasn’t caught by the Sterling left fielder, she knew her young teammate would score from first base.
She was right.
Hall, who hit a one-out single two batters prior, sprinted around the base path and easily slid in safely to give her Lady Warriors a 5-4 win and a berth into Saturday’s fast-pitch state championship game for the second time in three years.
“This was amazing,” Hall said. “I love it. I love the girls, everything.”
Gobble, who allowed 10 hits and struck out 13 batters in the circle, had trouble coming up with the words to describe Friday’s come-from-behind victory.
“It is the best feeling ever,” Gobble said. “I’ve worked so hard for this. All of it coming together is just – I don’t know how to explain it.”
When Gobble came to the plate, the Sterling left fielder played back to make sure nothing went over her head. Instead, the ball dropped short, allowing Gobble to reach first and Hall to round the bases.
“I knew it was the inning when we were going to get it done,” Gobble said. “I just tried to relax and make solid contact, because I had been doing that all game. All I needed to do was find a hole, because (Hall) is fast enough to run around and score.
“When it came off the bat and I realized it was a short one, I didn’t think it would get caught because their left fielder was playing at the fence. I thought it had a chance to get down, but she made an amazing effort to get the ball.”
In the eyes of Ripley coach Kaleb Hoffman, there was no way he was stopping Hall at third base.
“I’m sending her whether we get thrown out or not,” Hoffman said. “Once I saw it down, I knew she’d have a chance to score. She runs well. I knew we had a chance.”
If Ripley has proven anything the past two days, it’s that it can’t be counted out at the state tournament. The Lady Warriors trailed by one run through three innings Thursday and by four runs through five innings Friday, but rallied to win both contests.
Ripley flipped the tide on Sterling, which rallied from a 6-3 deficit Thursday to beat Morrison in extra innings. Ripley fell behind 2-0 in the first inning before Sterling tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning, taking a commanding 4-0 lead.
Making matters worse was Sterling’s defense. The Lady Tigers made play after play in the field, snagging balls that most often resulted in Ripley reaching base.
Sterling allowed only four Ripley hits through five innings, but two of those were halted because of double plays. Sterling caught a ball in shallow right field – on a diving catch – and one in the pitching circle, and turned them into double plays as Ripley runners were caught off base.
“You have to just stay composed and tell the girls, ‘That’s a great approach,’” Hoffman said. “… When you do something right and get out, that’s a part of this game. I really thought they kept their heads when in a lot of situations it would have been easy to get frustrated and say today is not our day. They kept grinding and trying to make their own breaks, and we were finally able to do that. I’m really proud how they continued to compete.”
Just when the game seemed to shift completely in Sterling’s favor with the Lady Tigers doubling their lead in the top of the sixth, momentum flipped in the bottom half of the inning when Ripley’s bats came alive.
The Lady Warriors scored four runs on four singles, a double and a sacrifice fly. It began with singles from Hall and senior Betty Wolfe before Gobble hit an RBI double. Junior Kelsie McCollom and freshman Carolyn Overton followed with RBI singles. The final run of the inning came on a sac fly from freshman Taylor Boyd. allowing McCollom to score from third base.
“We just needed to get back in it,” Hall said. “We needed to get pumped up and I knew anything would help.”
In the seventh inning, Sterling’s leadoff runner, freshman pitcher Morgan Curry, hit a single to put the possible go-ahead run on base. Gobble struck out the next two batters and induced an infield pop up to keep the game tied.
Ripley wasn’t about to go to extra innings. Hall hit a hard groundball that Sterling’s third baseman dove for, but she was only able to deflect the ball. Hall reached on the single, and two batters later raced around the bases to meet McCollom, who was in the on-deck circle, at the plate to celebrate.
Meanwhile, the rest of her teammates sprinted out of the dugout and celebrated around Hoffman before he escaped the large huddle of players.
“I knew I needed to run,” Hall said of when she saw Gobble hit the ball. “I knew I had to go. I just ran.”
Ripley will face No. 1 seed Binger-Oney at 1:30 p.m. Saturday on Field No. 1 at the Hall of Fame Complex. Binger-Oney beat Caddo, 4-0, in the second Class A state semifinal game Friday.
The Lady Bobcats have won four state titles in their program history, and all four have come within the past 10 years.
Ripley last reached the state finals in 2018. The Lady Warriors fell 5-1 to Amber-Pocasset.
“It’s an unbelievable venue, obviously,” Hoffman said of playing on the main field Saturday. “It’s a great opportunity for our kids, and a great experience for them. At the end of the day, it is still softball and you still have to go play the game and not let the venue be overwhelming.”