By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
FORT GIBSON – Sometimes one mistake is all it takes in a fastpitch softball pitcher’s duel to determine the outcome.
That’s exactly what happened on Thursday as the Class 4A No. 1 Hilldale Lady Hornets (11-1) beat the No. 4 Fort Gibson Lady Tigers (9-2) 1-0 in Fort Gibson.
With one out in the top of the sixth, Hilldale’s Casady Mills, the only player on either team to have multiple hits going 2-for-3, blooped a one-out single between Fort Gibson’s Sage Stout and Kelsey Hornback in right centerfield. When Stout misplayed the hop, Mills raced around to third and came home on Destiny Riddle’s deep ground ball to short for the only run of the game.
“We knew it was going to be a good game,” Riddle said. “They’re a good team. We feel we didn’t play to the best of our ability but made it with a win.”
Up until the sixth inning, Riddle and Fort Gibson’s Madison Higley were going toe-to-toe in the circle. Through the first five innings, Riddle had given up just three hits and had thrown a total of 51 pitches, 36 for strikes while Higley had totaled 78 pitches, 56 for strikes, and had allowed two hits.
“It was fun to watch, it was a great game,” said Fort Gibson coach Jaime Snyder. “It was like a boxing match. When we were at the top of our lineup, they were at the top of theirs.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game. That’s why they’re the number one team.”
The game started as if it would be Fort Gibson scoring the first run when Mackenzie Williams ripped Riddle’s first offering of the game between shot and third for the first hit. Emilee Rigsby sacrificed her to second but Riddle got Brea Jordan on a pop up to second and Miranda Cherry on a groundout to third to end the threat.
After Higley retired the Lady Hornets in order in the top of the second, FGHS mounted another threat. Laura Diebold led off with a single to left and moved to second on a two-out single by Hornback but both runners were stranded when Stout grounded out to Riddle.
Hornback’s single was the last baserunner Riddle would allow as she retired the last 16 batters she faced. Out of those 16 outs, only two left the infield, a fly out to left by Jordan in the third and a fly out to center in the fifth by Sydney Murray.
Hilldale coach Darren Riddle, Destiny’s father, knows that his squad gutted out a win against a quality pitcher in Higley.
“She did a good job,” the Hilldale coach said. “We hit some balls hard right at some people. She did a good job both games against us last year. Tip the old hat to her.”
The coach was also proud of the job his pitcher did.
“(Destiny) didn’t have great velocity but she moved the ball around,” he said. “She had a couple of pitchers working for her today and was able to pitch to contact. Defensively, we didn’t make any mistakes and (Hornback) makes a play right off the bat or we probably have a triple or an inside-the-park home run.”
Both pitchers wanted to get ahead of the batters and Higley got her first pitch over for a strike to 22 of the 26 batters she faced while Destiny Riddle turned the trick to 17 of the 24 batters she went up against. In the bottom of the sixth, after Hilldale had taken the lead, Destiny fell behind to each of the three batters in the inning, earning a visit from her coach after falling behind 2-0 to the third batter.
“She was worried about her velocity all day and that’s what happened to the third batter,” Darren Riddle said. “After I talked to her, she made a good pitch to a good hitter and got the out.”
Both schools will now be off for the Labor Day weekend and return to action on Tuesday. Hilldale heads to Locust Grove for a 4:30 p.m. contest while Fort Gibson meets Oologah and Keys in a three-way at Keys.