Durant is a step closer to a return trip to next week’s Class 5A fast pitch softball state tournament, but it took a late rally for the Lady Lions to overcome Claremore, 4-2, Thursday afternoon in regional winner’s bracket play on the DHS diamond.
The Lady Zebras, now 19-19, definitely made it difficult.
Up 1-0 in the third inning on Haley Morgan’s leadoff home run in the top of the first, DHS saw Claremore score two runs in the third inning to take a 2-1 advantage. Holland Rader had the big hit for the Lady Zebras singling in both runs with two outs.
That lead stood until the fifth when Durant, now 28-7, rallied to tie. Singles by Taylor Russell and Morgan and a walk to Isie Cox loaded the bases with one out. Tristyn Hamilton then plated Russell with the equalizer on a groundout to first base.
Tied 2-2, Durant went ahead for good two innings later with a pair of hard-earned runs in the seventh.
Leading off the frame, Darika Douglas went to second when her sinking liner to center bounced by centerfielder Terran Schornick. Russell then moved pinch runner Madison Keel to third on a ground out.
Up came Morgan who promptly slapped a one-hop double off the base of the wall in leftfield to chase Keel home and put the Lady Lions up 3-2. Durant then added an insurance run when Cox lined a RBI single to right.
Cox retired the Zebras in order in the bottom of the seventh to nail down the important victory. The sophomore, who upped her record in the circle to 23-5, pitched well giving up two runs on four hits while striking out 10. She also retired the final Claremore eight batters in order.
Durant touched Claremore starting pitcher and loser Kaleigh Schumacher for all four runs on eight hits. The Zebra pitcher struck out seven.
Morgan, who entered the game hitting a remarkable .667, added three hits and a walk. Russell hit safely twice with Cox, Jacie Phillips and Douglas all collecting singles.
The suspense was thick as fans from both schools sat on the edge of their seats throughout the hot and still afternoon as both teams were scratching and clawing to stay out of the loser’s bracket.
“We’ve been down before, but just not in the playoffs,” said Durant coach Cody Little when asked whether his team felt stress when they trailed in such an important game. “For us there was a little bit of pressure and a little bit of tension.
“But you want that. If it’s not there then it doesn’t mean anything. When we got down 2-1 I think we lost that zero-zero mindset and I tried to get them to get it back. They did a good job of overcoming it.”
The win was key for the Lady Lions who now need just one more regional win to advance to the 5A state tournament for the fourth year in a row.
That opportunity will come at noon today when Durant meets the winner of this today’s 10 a.m. elimination game between Claremore and McAlester. The Zebras spanked McAlester, 12-0, to open the tourney on Thursday. A Durant loss in the regional championship game would force the “if necessary game” to be played at 2 o’clock this afternoon.
Jim Reagan is Sports Director at KSEO/KLBC Radio in Durant