MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

March 29, 2013

Tahlequah takes (blood) rival in twinbill sweep

TAHLEQUAH — It’s no secret that Tahlequah and Sequoyah are Cherokee County rivals. In the Chuculate family, it’s cause for a sibling rivalry.

Caitlin Chuculate’s sister, Millie, is a former Sequoyah softball player. Caitlin currently occupies left field for the Tahlequah’s slowpitch softball team.

Enough said.

“My sister went to school here,” Caitlin said, “so it feels better to beat them.”

And that’s exactly what Tahlequah did on Thursday afternoon. The Class 6A No. 6 Lady Tigers dispatched of 5A No. 4 Sequoyah, 9-2 and 3-1, in a doubleheader at Sequoyah High School.

“I get pretty pumped up when I play them,” Chuculate said. “Just because they know who I am.”

In the second game of the twinbill, Chuculate went 0 for 3 at the plate, but the junior outfielder made her mark with her glove.

With Tahlequah nursing a 2-1 advantage in the bottom of the third inning, Sequoyah (3-3) appeared primed to knot the game up when Kelsey Leach sent a ball soaring into left field. However, Chuculate ranged to her right and made a diving catch to end the inning, keeping Kara Linch from potentially circling the bases to plate the tying run.

“I think with their speed, if that ball gets down, they score,” Tahlequah coach Matt Cloud said. “She’s going away from the play, and the ball would have rolled into the corner. I think that was the big turning point in the game, and I think it took the wind out of their sails.”

Said Chuculate of the game-changing play: “Somebody told me that their first-base coach got pretty mad. I felt pretty good about making that catch. I felt like I helped the team out some.”

Also helping Tahlequah out? Fielding blunders by the Lady Indians.

After Megan Towie put Sequoyah up in the first inning on a RBI single, the Lady Tigers rallied thanks to the right arm of Kelsey Leach. The junior shortstop committed two fatal errors in Tahlequah’s half of the third inning.

With Chloe Barker (running for Erin Dillard) on second base and Britney Johnson on first, Marisa Girdner hit what appeared to be a routine ground ball to Leach. Instead, Leach bobbled the ball, allowing Girdner to reach base. Then, to compound the problem, Leach air-mailed a throw to first base, permitting Barker and Johnson to come all the way around to score.

“We gave them two runs,” Sequoyah coach Larry Shade said. “Without those, who knows, we might still be playing out here.”

Neither team was proficient on offense, with Sequoyah mustering only six hits compared to Tahlequah’s seven.

In the seventh inning, Tahlequah added an extra insurance run on Lainey Wallace’s sacrifice fly. Wallace drove in Kortney Dry, who reached base on a fielding error by Sequoyah’s Taylor Owl to start the inning.

With the victory, Tahlequah secured its third victory over Sequoyah this season. The Lady Tigers are now 11-0 against Sequoyah since the 2011 season.

“Player for player, they’re just as athletic as us,” Cloud said of Sequoyah, which won the 5A state tournament last season. “I think they’re going to be in the hunt in the 5A deal. And I’d be surprised if they’re not in Oklahoma City on May 1.”

Shade, whose team will host Stilwell on Saturday, said: “It’s not about how you start [your season], it’s how you finish. I want (our players) to have that same mentality.”

Tahlequah, after a sweep of 6A No. 10 Poteau on Tuesday, will continue a week of challenging games with at least five games in the Big Classic in Moore, which starts today. The Lady Tigers will take on Norman, Washington and Southmoore today with games against Jenks and Dale awaiting on Saturday.

Tahlequah amassed 20 hits in the opener and scored in all but two innings to open the day with a win.

The Lady Tigers started with a three-run first inning to zap any early momentum for Sequoyah.

“I don’t think they play from behind well,” Cloud said of Sequoyah. “If they jump on you, they’re pretty tough. And that’s one of those deals that we talked about before we got here.”

Every player in Tahlequah’s lineup either got a hit, scored a run or drove in a run. Britney Johnson tallied four hits for the Lady Tigers, while Wallace recorded two RBIs in the lower half of Tahlequah’s batting order.

Megan Towie was the only Sequoyah player to drive in a run. She did so with a RBI single in the fourth inning.

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