By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
SHAWNEE – Again, and unbenownst to her, Destiny Riddle took a no-hitter into the seventh and final inning.
For the second straight day, she lost it.
The Hilldale junior got Bethel's Kim Herron to ground to Casady Mills at short. Her throw to Tori McMillan at first did all Riddle cared about – getting her hands on the Class 4A state championship trophy Saturday afternoon.
The one-hitter did just that – a 7-0 win for the top-ranked Lady Hornets over the No. 6 Bethel Wildcats at the Ball Fields at Firelake.
Riddle, who walked eight in a two-hit semifinal win against Blanchard on Friday, made this one look easy after an early adjustment.
After Kelsey Eropkin reached on a mishandled shot at a drawn-in McKensie Plant at third, Riddle walked Shelby Miller. Bry Flanagan’s fly ball to center sacrificed Eropkin to third but on the throw there, Plant fired to Sarah Hughey at second to get Miller attempting to move up.
From that point, Riddle struck out clean-up hitter Mikayla Whitten and retired 19 in a row until, with two outs in the seventh, Whitten doubled to left.
No no-hitter, but a championship and 10 strikeouts to cap a 35-5 season.
“Early I wasn’t finishing my pitches, but after that I settled in,” Riddle said, who a time or two in the first inning tended to a soft spot in front of the rubber that in the top of the inning required 10 minutes of sand work by the grounds crew.
And she insisted – just as she did amid eight walks on Friday – she knew nothing about the no-hitter. This time, she had only the first-inning walk to get in the way of her thinking.
“I really don’t think about that,” she said.
Even her head coach and father wasn’t sure.
“I thought so but I wasn’t sure about the error in the first,” he said. “Really I was so darned nervous. And she’s telling you the truth. Doesn’t care about no-hitters, doesn’t care about strikeouts. She’s all about team. She just smiled after that double and it was like ‘let’s get this championship.”
The coach, who won a state baseball title at the school in 2012, gave his daughter a little bit of help in the first when he challenged a call on a diving catch by Miller, the Bethel second baseman, on a hit off the bat of Plant with runners at first and second. Miller came up with the ball and doubled Casady Mills off second for what appeared to be the final out of the first inning.
The umpires then met and changed the call, ruling Miller had trapped the ball. They also ruled a force out on Riddle coming from first base and motioned Bethel’s players back to the field to meet Sarah Hughey, who tripled off the wall in left to score Mills and Plant for a 2-0 cushion before Riddle the pitcher went to the circle.
After Mills doubled home Hillary Calvert to make it 3-0 in the third, Hughey in her second at bat parked a solo home run, not too far from the portion of the wall she dinged in the first.
“I was feeling it and she threw one down the middle both times,” Hughey said. “I got on both the same way.”
Hilldale put three more on the board in the seventh off three hits – a double by Jessie Casey, a single by Mills and a double by Plant – and misplayed fly off the bat of Hillary Calvert.
It was never in doubt, not like the baseball title the coach won in this same town just a few miles to the east in a 2-1 win against Berryhill.
“I’m not going to say this is more meaningful. Because what is awesome is I’ve got a bunch of my baseball guys over there cheering us on too,” said Darren Riddle. “But with Destiny in the circle it does make it a little different.”
Nervous coach became nervous dad.
“I was almost nauseated out there,” he said.
Hughey finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs, Mills was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs driven in and Casey was 2-for-3. McMillan, Plant and Kyla Ibarra each had one hit as Hilldale finished with nine.
Bethel finished at 27-12.
Every Lady Hornet will be back for another year. Most of them were around when they got here a year ago and lost 11-10 in the quarterfinals to Cache after leading 8-0.
“We’ll be back,” Hughey said.
It’s Hilldale’s first fastpitch title. It’s also the area’s first state title since Oktaha won in 2006 and the first in 4A since Fort Gibson in 1998.
By Mike Kays
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