By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
It’s been a long, hard ride for the Sand Springs Lady Sandite softball team, and it’s been incredible.
The current seniors were part of the first team in over a decade to win a Regional title, and they’ve done it not just once, but three times.
In their first trip to the State Championship, they were shut out 2-0 by Yukon who went on to win the state title. In 2013, they lost 6-2 to Moore who went on to be the State Runner-Up.
This year it was the Sandites’ time to shine.
Goose Salyers (16-1) got the start and the win on the mound for Charles Page High School, while Abbey Brickey got the loss for the defending state champions from Mustang.
The Lady Broncos emerged to an early lead as MacKenzie Donohoo hit a groundball into left field to be the first player on base, and was soon brought home on an RBI double by Madison Perrigan.
With two outs and Perrigan on third base, Salyers walked Zoe Jones and Alexia Vargas to load the bases. Karis Clark was at bat and it looked like Mustang might be about to explode offensively. With a full count, Clark hit a groundball to second-baseman Kimi Presnell and was put out on first base.
The Lady Broncos had run-ruled seven games before tonight, but that threat had been adverted—for now.
Sydney Pennington was the lone Sandite on base in the bottom of the first and she was left stranded as Sand Springs failed to find their legs to start the game.
Mustang came in to bat once again, and this time there would be no stopping the hits. Brooklyn Sparkman was struck out, but from there it was a swinging contest. Kaitlyn Thomas struck a single and Audrie Morrison brought her home on an RBI double.
Next was Perrigan with a second RBI, this time a triple, on her second at bat, confirming herself as a major threat. Perrigan was hands down the best batter of the night, with a perfect batting average, a perfect on-base percentage, and a 2.50 slugging average. She was also the fastest base-runner out there.
The lumber-jacking didn’t stop there. Kylie Dodson brought Perrigan in with a single, and were it not for a tremendous catch by center-fielder Jessica Collins, it would have kept going from there. Zoe Jones slammed the first pitch thrown at her and it almost cleared the field, but Collins was in the air, barely snagging the ball as she collided with the fence to avert a potential home-run and bring the Sandites in, trailing 4-0.
The Sandites were ready to respond. Kali Mallory drew a walk and was replaced on base by curtesy-runner Caley Thompson. Thompson stole second while Collins was at bat, then Collins was walked to join her. Presnell bunted for a single to load the bases and now it was Rachel Blair’s turn to do some damage.
With a full count, Blair finally connected for the biggest hit of the night, a 3RBI triple into center-field.
Jacie Taber was put out at first and Salyers and Millican were both struck out, but the damage was done. Blair had shown Mustang that the Sandites were here to fight.
The Lady Broncos managed only one base hit in the third inning, and Sand Springs was thirsty for blood.
Pennington found first base on a bunt and an error by Jones, and was soon joined by Schuler with a single into left field. Mallory connected for an RBI double and was replaced by Thompson once again. Collins bunted for a single, thanks to an error by Clark, and the bases were loaded with no outs.
Presnell was batting now, and the Bronco errors continued to worsen. Schuler was paying attention, and was ready when Perrigan, the catcher, allowed an errant ball to travel past her. By the time the catcher found the ball and realized what was happening, Schuler had stolen home plate and tied the game.
Presnell finished her at bat with a line drive right over Brickey’s head to score Thompson and claim first base. The Sandites had taken the lead, and wouldn’t slow down or look back.
Presnell stole second with Salyers at bat, and Salyers connected for a 2RBI single with some help from an error by Britani Sanders on first base. The inning came to a close on the next at bat, and the Sandites had taken an 8-4 lead.
The State Champions attempted to rally in the top of the fourth. Donohoo pulled off a single and Perrigan brought her home with an RBI triple. Dodson hit a sacrifice fly to bring the score to 8-6, but those would be the last runs the Broncos ever scored.
In the top of the fifth, Vargas, Sparkman, and Thomas hit singles to load the bases, but the Sandite defense managed to ward them off once again. Schuler dived into the dugout net to catch a foul ball from Clark, Donohoo was put out at first with an assist from Presnell, and Caitlin Cantrell was struck out.
What the Broncos had expected to be their magic inning instead turned into a nightmare.
Rachel Blair drew four straight balls for a walk, and Mustang decided it was time for a change on the mound. It was quite probably the worst call of the game.
Sparkman took over as pitcher, but the pressure was too much for the poor girl. Visibly shaking, she walked Madelyn Blair, Salyers, and Millican, and brought home Rachel Blair for a free run. Pennington sacrificed herself to score Madelyn Blair and that was enough for Mustang to realize they had made the wrong call.
Brickey went back to the mound, but it was too late to stop the Sandite tide.
Schuler let loose a centerfield fly to load the bases and Mallory hit an RBI single to bring Salyers in. Presnell hit a single to score Schuler and the Sandites ended the inning with a 12-6 lead.
Perrigan continued to impress with yet another double, but Dodson and Jones were both put out in the infield. Vargas hit a foul ball and Millican gave one of her signature diving catches to snag the put out and once again it was time for Sand Springs to do some damage.
Salyers hit a single and was brought home by Pennington with a double. Schuler followed suit, bringing Pennington in with a double of her own for a 14-6 lead.
The seventh inning was a no-hitter, and just like that Sand Springs had won their first state quarterfinal game in nearly two decades.
The Lady Sandites will next take on Moore at 2:30 on Friday. Moore (34-4) defeated Muskogee (22-18) 11-1 in their quarter-final game.
Sand Springs (30-8) has not played Moore this season, but when it comes to mutual opponents Sand Springs has a slight edge. The Sandites win by an average of 7.4-2.4, whereas Moore wins by an average of 6.2 to 2.7
No matter what, it’s bound to be one exciting game! The winner will advance to the Championship round Saturday at 5:00 PM.