It’s a fourth consecutive trip to the Class 5A fast pitch state tournament for Durant after the Lady Lions swept through its home regional tournament, clinching the crown with a 9-1 win over Claremore.
Friday afternoon’s championship game was nothing like Thursday’s regional matchup between the two schools. In the earlier one, the Lady Lions had to rally for a 4-2 victory with two runs in the seventh inning.
This time around by the time the seventh had rolled around the game’s outcome was a foregone conclusion with Durant safely ahead by eight runs.
The Lady Lions, who pounded out 16 hits in the romp, wasted little time in getting started. Haley Morgan, led the game off with a double to right-center and scored on Shayla Harper’s ground single to left.
Up 1-0, Durant took command for good by pushing across five runs with two outs in the top of second.
Allyssa French got the ball rolling with an opposite field triple and she scored on Taylor Russell’s single. Morgan then reached first on a bunt single and Isie Cox followed with a RBI single to right plating Russell. Tristyn Hamilton’s safety scored Morgan to make it 4-0 and Harper’s screaming line drive double chased home pinch runner Jaylin Ford and Hamilton to make it 6-0.
Durant went up 7-0 in the third with French once again keying a two-out uprising.
The DHS leftfielder, who is also a state champion power lifter, doubled to left, stole third and then scored when Russell’s grounder to second was misplayed.
Harper tripled and scored on Hannah Hime’s sacrifice fly to tack on the eighth run in the fourth inning. The Lady Lions final tally came in the sixth inning on Hime’s ninth home run of the season – a towering blast over the leftfield wall.
Cox, who raised her record to 25-5, was impressive for the second day in row versus Claremore. She limited the Zebras to just a single run in the fourth inning while scattering four hits.
Hitting stars were many for the Lady Lions.
Morgan, who went seven for eight in the tourney sweep, had four hits. Both French and Harper added three hits apiece with Russell collecting two. Cox, Hamilton, Hime, and Darika Douglas also hit safely.
After finishing as state runner up in 2016, Durant (now 29-7) returns to state one more time. A fact that may have surprised some, but not first-year head coach Cody Little and his team.
“As far as this team goes, there were never any doubts as to what this team’s goals were,” Little said. “This was always part of the plan.”
There were some questions as the season begin with the graduation of college softball signees Sydney Hampton, Nicole Jackson, Destinee Lewis and Breanna Simmons.
“Coming in there was a lot of talk about us not being as good,” Little said. “We graduated four seniors and three all-staters. The girls and I never drank that Kool-Aid and wanted no part of that. From day one it’s been state tournament and state championship. To get back there.”
As a result, this year’s squad, including seniors, French, Harper, Hime, Rachel Lamb, and Russell, are bound for Oklahoma City and the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium complex one more time.
Jim Reagan is Sports Director for KSEO/KLBC Radio in Durant