By Jimmy Stinson
CNHI News Service
WAGONER – The Wagoner Lady Bulldogs brought a lot of bark and some bite to their fastpitch home opener on Monday night but the Fort Gibson Lady Tigers were able to claw their way to a 6-2 victory in a game that took eight innings to decide.
The victory by Fort Gibson keeps its record unblemished at 5-0 while Wagoner falls to 6-2.
Through the first three innings, Fort Gibson's Madison Higley and Wagoner's Kaitlyn Collins were involved in a scoreless duel but used different means to get there. Higley struck out five of the first six batters she faced and six through three innings. Collins, meanwhile, did not strike out any, but kept the Lady Tigers off balance enough to keep them scoreless. Fort Gibson banged out five hits and had the bases loaded in the second but failed to score thanks to some nifty defense that registered two double plays on the day.
Mackenzie Williams led off the game for the Lady Tigers with a hard shot to left. Emily Rigsby, batting in the two hole, ripped a line shot to Wagoner shortstop Madyson Robertson who then fired to Cherokee Ridge at first for the double play.
With one out in the second inning, the Lady Tigers loaded the bases on back-to-back-to-back hits by Lauren Diebold, Kelsey Hornback, and Brooke Benham, but a fielder’s choice and a fly out ended the threat. For the day, Fort Gibson stranded eleven base runners.
“I felt like even from the start that we were in control,” said Fort Gibson coach Jaime Snyder. “But we had so many base runners that we left on, I kept thinking that it will happen.”
The Lady Tigers finally broke the deadlock in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Benham drew a walk and two pitches later stole second. Sydney Murray delivered an 0-2 pitch to centerfield and the relay throw from center bounced through the catcher allowing Benham to score the run.
That lead was short lived as the first pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning was deposited over the left field fence by Robertson, her first of two on the day. Fort Gibson regained the lead in the fifth on a walk to Rigsby and an RBI single by Miranda Cherry to make the score 2-1. Thanks to Robertson, that lead didn’t last long. This time it was the second pitch that found its way over the left field fence to tie the score at 2-2.
“This was her (Robertson) second game to play this season, she had a big day at the plate,” said Wagoner coach Emily Williams. “We just didn't have anybody on when she hit those.”
The eighth inning was the downfall for Wagoner. With one out, Murray reached base on an error. Freshman Shannon Mayo-James was asked by Snyder to pinch run and promptly stole second, coming home with the go-ahead run on a Wagoner error. The Lady Tigers would add three more runs to close out the scoring.
Mayo-James admitted after the game that she was nervous being put in the pressure situation.
“I was scared and didn't want to mess up,” she said. “I just listened to coach and scored.”
Collins took the loss for Wagoner, giving up six runs on 14 hits with two walks and one strikeout, but had high praise from her coach.
“We’re gonna get her a little more mentally tough,” Williams said. “(Kaitlyn) worked hard over the summer on some new pitches. She is doing a great job for us. She's not gonna strikeout a lot of batters, but she does have good movement.”
Higley got the win for Fort Gibson, striking out 10, giving up four hits and only two walks and moves her record to 5-0. Rigsby finished the day at the plate, going 1-4, with two runs scored.
Cherry was 2-5 with three RBIs for the Lady Bulldogs, while Murray was 2-3 with a run scored for the Lady Tigers. Benham, Sage Stout, and Bailee Jordan scored the other three runs for Fort Gibson.
Robertson was the big stick for Wagoner, going 2-for-4 with the two home runs. Cherokee Ridge and Morgan Randolph were the only other Lady Bulldogs to get a hit.
Wagoner travels to Hilldale today while Fort Gibson heads to Vinita. Both games start at 5 p.m.