OKLAHOMA CITY – Even though they are no strangers to the state softball tournament, advancing past the opening round or even semifinals have been like the Holy Grail for the Silo Lady Rebels.
Coach Mike Lawless’ youth-laden squad took that elusive next step on Friday afternoon, advancing to the Class 2A state championship game for the first time in school history with a 6-2 triumph over Savanna.
Second-ranked Silo, which improved to 36-7 on the season, will get a much-anticipated shot at three-time state champ Dale in the finale at 6:30 this evening at Hall of Fame Stadium.
The Lady Pirates, who have held the top position in the rankings all season, survived a strong challenge from fourth-ranked Drumright, 6-5, in the other semifinal contest. Dale won state titles in 2013 and 2014 before Tushka and Latta claimed the past two 2A championship trophies.
“We’ve been trying to take more steps the last couple years we’ve been here,” Silo head coach Mike Lawless stated. “I thought this was a team that could break down the wall and get to the state finals but you still have to go out and do it, which definitely isn’t easy.
“We played six freshmen today but they have played a lot of softball and are mature beyond their years. Fortunately we have really good senior leadership as well. We are playing the best we’ve played all year at the right time.”
For a game that lasted seven hard-fought innings, some might say (including Lawless) that the turning point came in the opening half inning.
Savanna came out smoking offensively, loading the bases with nobody out on three consecutive singles from Britton Buckner, Carly Cox and Blaire Wilson.
A squeeze bunt attempt by Dakota Mcelhaney failed thanks to a nice transfer from pitcher Alexis Tanguma to catcher Gracie Lawless. Tanguma then coaxed a fly ball that Savanna failed to tag on and got a strikeout to get away unscathed.
“I thought that first inning changed everything and was really the turning point,” Lawless commented. “I hate to say what it would have been if they score a couple right of the box there. Getting out of it without any runs scored was huge for us. I thought really helped build our confidence.”
Silo dodged another bullet after an error opened the door in the top of the third when Tanguma struck out two straight Lady Dawgs to end the stanza.
The Lady Rebels finally a little spark against Wilson, Savanna’s standout ace in the circle, in the bottom of the frame as Tanguma recorded the first Silo hit with a single to left. Courtesy runner Cheri Stampley stole second, moved to third on a beautiful bunt from Blaklyn Barber and both scored when Daelyn Marshall smashed a double to leftfield.
Kensea Eppler drove in another run with a single two batters later to give Silo a 3-0 cushion.
The two clubs settled in from there until the fifth when the Lady Rebels went back to work with the top of the lineup providing the spark.
Barber opened the frame with a single and came all the way around to score on Marshall’s second straight double, making it a 4-0 advantage.
While Tanguma continued to cruise, yielding just two singles to Savanna over the five frames after the early uprising, Silo tacked on more insurance runs in the sixth.
Lawless led off with a single and quickly scored via a Tanguma run-scoring single. Eppler added another RBI when she was hit by a pitch following back-to-back walks which had loaded the bases.
Even with a six-run edge, the Lady Rebels weren’t quite out of the woods as Savanna duplicated its showing from the first inning with three straight hits in the seventh – this time tallying a run – against a tiring Tanguma.
A Mcelhaney single loaded the bases again with one out when Silo pulled out the defensive gem of the day, turning a game-ending double play to send the Lady Rebels on to the championship round.
Silo finished with 10 hits led by two apiece from Marshall, Barber and Tanguma. Eppler, Lawlee, Danielle Hayden and Randi McLarry each tossed in one.
“We left plenty of runners on and they did too,” Coach Lawless added. “But we came up with the key hits when we needed, especially Daelyn. She had a couple of big ones early for us.”
Contact Kevin Farr at 580-634-2161 or firstname.lastname@example.org