By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Sage Stout said it was redemptive.
Jaime Snyder said it wasn’t surprising.
Stout, hitting in the nine hole for Fort Gibson, hit a two-out double in the third inning and scored on Mackenzie Williams’ single for what turned out to be the only run of the game as the No. 3 Lady Tigers beat No. 1 Hilldale 1-0 in a battle of Class 4A fastpitch powerhouses.
Winners of 10 consecutive games, Fort Gibson (23-4) has a 2-1 edge over the Lady Hornets (25-4) in the three meetings this year, including a 3-0 win in the Oologah Tournament last weekend. All have been shutouts.
Ironically, Stout had a hand in a reversal of fortune in the Lady Tigers’ only loss in the series. Her error on a one-out single to center allowed the only run of that game to reach third, eventually scoring on a fielder’s choice groundout.
She redeemed herself with the bat, fooling Emily Dowdy on a shot that sailed over the left fielder.
“It was an inside pitch and I just turned out,” Stout said. “It felt good. You try not to think about mistakes and refocus to help your team and I’m glad I helped them.”
It didn’t catch Snyder off guard.
“She’s my fastest girl, and she hits in that spot so she can get on and our top of the order can get her in,” Snyder said. “But I believe anyone that steps up there — we’ve worked so hard on being able to take our hands through the ball — anyone who gets up there, I know they have the opportunity.”
But few others capitalized, which was typical for another showdown between Fort Gibson’s Madison Higley and Hilldale’s Destiny Riddle. Higley held Hilldale to three hits, Riddle surrendered four. The biggest difference was that two of the state’s strikeout leaders combined for one on this day. That one belonged to Higley, which left Tori McMillan stranded after a one-out single in the fifth.
Instead of collecting Ks, Higley’s defensive highlight came on the final play of the game when she snagged McMillan’s rocket liner back at her with Mackensie Plant on second after a one-out double.
“It was kind of a reaction on my part,” Higley said, grinning. “She got into it pretty good.”
And so, Higley (23-4) merely contributed to what was a pretty snazzy defense behind her.
With one out in the third, she walked Jessie Casey. Kenzie Mize bunted Casey to second and Hillary Calvert then hit a line drive to right which Kelsey Hornback caught while backpedaling hard to the gap.
Hornback also hauled in a hard-hit line drive by Riddle on what turned into a twin killing in the fourth. Casady Mills led off with a double to the gap, the first hit off Higley, but her hesitation and subsequent late reaction on the basepaths after the line drive got her caught in a rundown throw-and-tag from Emilee Rigsby to Brea Jordan covering at third.
“Our rule is if it’s a routine we’re back and tagging (when hit) to right. But that’s not routine, it was a shot,” Hilldale coach Darren Riddle said. “(Mills) bounced hard off the bag, I told her ‘back,’ she went back to bag, I (then) told her to ‘go’ and she could have made it. She broke hard and then turned around..
“Just a mistake. ... she makes very, very, very few mistakes on the bases and that was a tough ball.”
It would be the last Hildale runner to make it to second until Plant did in the seventh. Brooke Benham’s running catch in left took away a potential hit by Sarah Hughey, just before McMillan’s single in the fifth.
The meeting is the last scheduled regular season matchup. It’s likely the two could meet in Oklahoma City should they get through regionals in a few weeks. What it does to next week’s rankings remains a mystery.
“When you’re a coach you always root for your own team. We’ve worked hard to put ourselves in a position to make a run to state and that’s our goal whether we’re 1, 19 or 20 in the rankings,” Snyder said. “Ultimately that’s where both teams want to be and both teams are very good teams.”
Hilldale is at Vinita on Thursday and Fort Gibson goes to the Sequoyah tourney, also on Thursday.