Bob Forrest Guest Sports Writer
The Ada News
The Tupelo Lady Tigers and Maud Lady Tigers passed each other going in opposite directions on the momentum train at Thursday’s Class A Regional slowpitch tournament at Asher.
No. 4 Tupelo, the highest ranked team in the four-team field, appeared to be headed the right way after a 6-1 first-round victory over No. 11 Caney; 13th-ranked Maud, meanwhile, opened the tournament by blowing a late lead and losing to No. 5 Asher, 8-6, to drop into the loser’s bracket.
Asher knocked Tupelo into the loser’s bracket with a 7-4 victory in the championship game that lifted the No. 5 Lady Indians into the slowpitch state tournament for the first time since 2006, and Maud then sent Caney home via an 18-3 victory. That left Tupelo and Maud to battle it out for the second state tournament berth out of the regional in the consolation final, but that game was no contest.
Maud took advantage of five Tupelo errors to score eight unearned runs in building a 10-1 lead after three and cruised to a 12-1 run-rule victory. The win eliminated the regional’s top seed and sent its lowest seed back to the state tournament for the second straight year — and the second time in school history. Tupelo, which achieved its highest ranking this spring in any softball season since 2009, ended the season at 17-9.
Asher 7, Tupelo 4
The Lady Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on one-out singles by Kayley Sanders and losing pitcher Brittany Sanders and Haylee Fowler’s sacrifice fly, but Asher (21-5) used four hits, two walks and a Tupelo error to score six times in the bottom of the second.
Winning pitcher Sara Wauahdooah started the rally with a line-drive single to left, then Alissa Oliphant walked on a 3-2 pitch. Shayla DeKuyster singled to left-center to load the bases, Haley Odell singled through a drawn-in Tupelo infield to drive in the tying run, and 10-hole hitter Malerey Luman drew a five-pitch walk to force home Oliphant and give the Lady Indians the lead for good.
Tristan Milburn followed with a ground ball that Fowler, the Tupelo third baseman, fielded cleanly, but catcher Keara Bourland couldn’t handle the throw home, and DeKuyser and Odell scored on the error to make it 4-1. Brandi Doshier capped the rally one pitch later with a two-run double to the wall in left-center.
Tupelo had a chance to climb back into the game in the top of the third, but a baserunning mistake and a nice play by the Asher defense short-circuited the rally. As they had in the first inning, Kayley Sanders and Brittany Sanders singled with one out in the third, and both runners moved up on an error on Brittany Sanders’ bloop hit to right field.
Fowler reached on an error, with Kayley Sanders scoring on the play, but Brittany Sanders also tried to score on the miscue and was easily thrown out at the plate for a big second out. Tamara Thompson, Tupelo’s only senior, followed with a sinking line drive to right that DeKuyster caught with a nice sliding catch to end the inning.
Brittany Sanders allowed just one unearned run after the second inning, but the Lady Tigers didn’t score again until the seventh. Kate McCoy singled with one out but was erased on Kayley Sanders’ fielder’s choice ground ball to second. Brittany Sanders followed with a fly-ball, RBI double to left-center and scored on Fowler’s line-drive double to the wall in left-center, but Thompson grounded out to end the game.
Tupelo outhit Asher, 13-9, but the Lady Tigers stranded 10 baserunners. Brittany Sanders was 4-for-4, and McCoy, Kayley Sanders and Kristyn Parker added two hits apiece in the loss. Odell finished 2-for-3 for the Lady Indians, who got a hit and/or a run scored and/or an RBI from every spot in their lineup.
Maud 12, Tupelo 1
Junior shortstop lined Brittany Sanders’ third pitch over the wall in right for an opposite-field home run, and the rout was on. A one-out double by Ashley Fletcher and a Tupelo error made it 2-0, and Maud broke the game open with a seven-run second-inning explosion fueled by three Tupelo errors.
Fletcher and Ashley Owens both had two-run doubles, and Lia Harjo also doubled in Maud’s second-inning rally, but Willis reached on an error with one out ahead of Fletcher’s two-batter, and Kiersten Ragan also reached on an error two batters before Owens’ fly-ball double to center.
Tupelo scored a run in the bottom of the second on Kelsie warner’s hustling one-out double on a bloop to right-center and Amanda Cosar’s sharp single to right, but that was the last hurrah for the Lady Tigers from Coal County — although they got their leadoff hitter on base in each of their final three at-bats. Maud (21-12) added another unearned run in the third and pushed across two more runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Fletcher and T. T. Bennet to ultimately end the game on the run rule.Willis and Fletcher had three hits apiece, and Sierra Sanders, Bennet and Harjo added two hits apiece to pace Maud’s 14-hit attack. Seven different Tupelo players had a hit apiece in the loss.
Tupelo 6, Caney 1
Kayley Sanders lined a two-run triple into the right field corner, and Aspen Collins added a fly-ball, RBI double to center in a five-run third-inning rally, and Brittany Sanders scattered four hits to lead the Lady Tigers to the first-round victory.
McCoy hit an inside-the-park home run to the wall in center field leading off the bottom of the first for Tupelo, she singled and scored on Sanders’ trip in the third, and she legged out an infield hit in the fifth to finish 3-for-3 in the win. Collins also singled in the second inning to finish 2-for-3.
The Lady Cougars threatened to climb back into the game in the top of the fourth, but two nice plays by the Tupelo defense kept the damage to a minimum. Macie Crites led off with a no-doubt home run to left-center, then Mykayla Henry singled to left-center and Kira Head and Lindsay Eagleberger walked to load the bases.
Makaela Mahana then hit a little pop fly in front of the plate and was retired on a diving catch by Bourland, who gathered herself and alertly fired to first to double off Mahana. Kayley Sanders, the Tupelo shortstop, then lunged to her left to glove a line drive off the bat of Brandi Magby and end the inning.