By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Battling off the ropes has been a style Muskogee’s grown accustomed to, and they once again came back with the necessary counterpunches at Rougherettes Park on Thursday.
Battling from behind twice, the Lady Roughers beat Union 7-5 to clinch a regional championship. It was their 10th come-from-behind win this season.
Now, it’s on to Shawnee. A regular at slowpitch state, this will be the Lady Roughers’ second state trip in fastpitch and first for coach Keith Coleman. The first trip was under Mack Chambers in 2008. Coleman was the slowpitch coach at that point and succeeded Chambers in 2009.
His preseason hunch on this team that they’d reach this place played itself out.
“I knew we were going to be talented this year,” Coleman said of his team, now 31-8. “This is an achievement and a compliment to the players and assistant coaches we have. I know there’s some good coaching staffs in Oklahoma, but I don’t think anyone’s comes close to the quality I’ve been blessed to have. The players, they bought in, they worked hard countless hours, and it paid off.”
Carlee Gann smacked a two-run double in the fifth to finish a three-run surge that got the Lady Roughers the lead for good. Playing as the home team, Union jumped off to a 2-0 advantage in the third. Muskogee came back with three to take the lead in the fourth, only to give up three in the bottom of the inning.
The third three-spot was a charm.
“We’d been getting inside pitches and I knew that was where it was going to be and I just trusted in my hands,” Gann said. “Our motto all year has been don’t quit playing hard until you get the ring.”
Lexi Watson led the fifth off with a single. Dee Emarthle then doubled off the left field wall, setting the stage for Gann. Nia Maxwell later hit a two-out single to score Gann.
Muskogee’s first lead at 3-2 came when Watson hit her fifth home run of the year. Brook Hendrickson then doubled and and after Kaitlin Kaiser walked. Nia Maxwell hit a two-run single to score both Hendrickson and Paige Logsdon, who pinch-ran for Kaiser.
In the seventh, Hendrickson led off with a triple and Kaiser singled her in.
Both were part of a bottom third of the batting order that was 7-for-11 in the game.
Hendrickson, who came in hitting .348 and was hitless in four at-bats in the regional opener against Sapulpa, was 6-for-7 in the final two games, including a 3-for-3 game in the finale with a double and triple.
“I’ve been up and down all year and before the past two games I’ve felt a little nervous,” Hendrickson said. “Just a lot of things going through my mind. But I just told myself to relax and ‘Do what you need to do.’”
Muskogee, which also set a school record for wins breaking the previous mark of 25, finished with 13 hits. Union (17-14) had 10 hits off Shaylee Rowland (23-8), who struck out three and walked one just a day after opening the regional by no-hitting Sapulpa.
Ponca City, which scored first in the 2-1 loss to Muskogee on Wednesday, finished at 26-11.