, Muskogee, OK

October 19, 2013

One Hill left to climb: Lady Hornets beat Blanchard 5-2, face Bethel for 4A title

By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor

— SHAWNEE – Destiny Riddle has had better pitching works of art. But give her credit for battling on the biggest high school stage she’s been on.

Riddle survived eight walks and yet had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning where she lost both the no-hitter and the shutout – but not the game as the No. 1 Hilldale Lady Hornets beat No. 4 Blanchard 5-2 in a Class 4A semifinal at the Ball Fields at Firelake on Friday afternoon.

Riddle, who also fanned nine Lady Lions, got one in the seventh as a drizzle began, just before Lauren Miller laced a single into left for the first hit off the junior hurler. Ashli Hafford then belted a change-up over the left field wall, giving Blanchard a bit of hope.

But Riddle (29-4) came back to get Jaden Shores on a grounder to Casady Mills at short. She then registered strikeout number nine at Maddie Combs’ expense to put  Hilldale (34-5) in an 11 a.m. championship game here opposite Bethel (27-11), a 7-2 winner over Cache – thus preventing the Lady Hornets from a measure of revenge. Hilldale had an 8-0 lead on Cache in last year’s quarterfinal but lost 11-10.

Not that a lack of redemption will matter any.

“We’re playing on the last day of the season,” said Hilldale coach Darren Riddle. “Let’s go out there and have fun.”

For his daughter, no sweat on losing the no-no, or even the no.

“Oh well,” she said. “I’m excited about tomorrow and I like our chances.”

She refused to take credit for the home run pitch.

“That’s my dad’s fault,” she said.

And he agreed. He called for a change-up that Hafford parked for her 15th homer of the season.

“We got her out all day and kind of hung the pitch to Miller over the plate. We started her with a change-up and I tried to get a cheap strike and she killed it,” the elder Riddle said. “She’s a good hitter and I should have stayed with what was working but I got a little too creative there.”

On the eight walks, both father and daughter spoke about the tight strike zone.

“It was tight both ways and she was just missing here and there on some counts. She wasn’t missing by much but I thought she settled in and pitched well,” the Hilldale coach said.

“I just had to adjust,” she said.

Blanchard (35-10) hurt itself with two errors (four in the game) that led to a run in the first and three in the third.

Hillary Calvert was hit by Hafford delivery to lead off the game. Casady Mills then grounded to Combs at third, whose throw to force Calvert at second sailed into right center field. Mills wound up at third as Calvert scored the first run of the game.

In the third, Mills drew a one-out walk, stole second then scored when Riddle reached on an error on a grounder to Sha Ingram at short. Sarah Hughey then laced a shot that froze left fielder Taylor Doshier as the ball sailed over her, scoring Riddle. Hughey came home on Toni McMillan’s single to right.

The Lady Hornets added their final run in the fifth. Riddle’s one-out single to left was followed by consecutive walks to McKensie Plant and Hughey. McMillan then hit a grounder to Shores at first, who stepped on the bag for the out and threw to her catcher, Brittany Nabors, to try and get Riddle. But Nabors apparently was confused that the force had been removed by the out at first and didn’t apply the tag.

“Those errors were the difference,” said Blanchard coach Joe Miller, who coached Riddle’s oldest daughter Danielle in summer ball. “I knew coming in that the team that made the most would lose the game.”

Admittedly a “good friend” of his coaching counterpart, Miller set that aside when assessing today’s final.

“Hilldale’s been No. 1 almost all year for a reason and I think it’s their time,” he said. “We’ve won ours (2009 and 2011). I think they get theirs Saturday.”

Mills, who doubled in the seventh and who was one of four Lady Hornets with one hit, has her mind set on a particular type of hardware.

“I know we’re going home with a medal tomorrow either way but I’m not settling for silver,” said Mills.

If they do, it’ll be the first area state title in fastpitch since Oktaha in 2006 and the first in 4A since Fort Gibson in 1998.