By Nick Hampton
Muskogee played giant killer on Thursday in the Hamlin’s El Toro and TTCU Festival of Champions at Roughers Park.
The Lady Roughers knocked off a No. 1 team, a No. 2 team and a 2013 state finalist to complete a 3-0 run in the festival which continues without them today.
Muskogee, ranked No. 7 in Class 6A and 18-6 after the day’s work, started against defending 3A champion and current No. 2 Rattan, taking a 4-3 win after spotting the Lady Rams a 3-0 lead on three errors coupled with a walk and a hit.
The Lady Roughers got one run back in the home half of the first on a Shaylee Rowland double and a two-out RBI single by Dee Emarthle. They tied it in the third inning as Rowland reached on an error went to second as the shortstop booted Carlee Gann’s grounder, and both runners scored when Nia Maxwell doubled.
Meanwhile the Lady Roughers settled down on defense and Rowland, in the circle for Muskogee, gave up just four hits the rest of way to up her record to 17-5.
The Lady Roughers scored the winning run in the sixth when, with two outs, Emarthle singled and Maxwell, who was 4-for-10 on the day with five RBI’s, hit her second double of the game to bring Emarthle around to score for the 4-3 win.
Next, Muskogee beat 6A No. 1 Southmoore 13-5. The Lady Roughers broke the ice in the second inning as Southmoore pitcher Carley Strawn issued four straight walks to force in a run. A fielder’s choice by Rowland scored a second run.
Southmoore got one run back in the third, but Muskogee countered on a double by Gann, and consecutive hits by Emarthle, Maxwell, and Aubrey Johnson to score three more and go up 5-1. The Lady Sabercats closed to within two on a two run homer by Rachel Copus in the fourth inning.
The teams traded two-run homers with Gann getting her eighth round-tripper of the year for Muskogee and Trinity Edwards connecting for Southmoore to make it a 7-5 lead for the Lady Roughers after five innings.
Muskogee broke it open with a six-run sixth inning. A walk to Bailee Hendrickson, back-to-back doubles by Rowland and Lexi Watson, four straight hits by Gann, Emarthle, Maxwell and Johnson and sacrifice flies by Brook Hendrickson and Kaitlyn Kaiser accounted for the damage.
The Lady Roughers final game of the day was against the Class 5A state runner-up from last year, Henryetta. Muskogee took charge with four first-inning runs and added two more in the second. The Lady Knights scored a pair of runs in both the second and third innings to make it 6-4. The Lady Roughers increased the lead to 8-4 after six innings. Henryetta scored a pair of runs in the seventh to narrow the gap to the final margin of 8-6.
“I was happy with the wins,” said head coach Keith Coleman. “But one thing we’ve got to work on is being more consistent. We can’t be a team that scores a lot of runs in one inning and then nothing after that. We’ve got to a better job of getting key hits when we have runner aboard. And defensively, like that first inning against Rattan, we sometimes just take some plays off. We can’t do that against strong 6A teams.”
Besides Maxwell, Gann had a big bat on the day for the Roughers, going 6-for-10 in the three games with a homer and three RBIs.
“I think we could have done better in the first and last game,” said the sophomore third baseman. “I think we have a problem of stepping up when we need to and sometimes giving it just enough to beat a team and that’s not how it needs to be.”
In other games at the Festival, Henryetta beat Rattan 8-5, Union scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Southmoore 4-3 and Union beat Henryetta 10-7. Play continues with six games today beginning at noon, but Muskogee will not be in action. Tahlequah will be the only area team in action at noon against Araphano and 3 p.m. against Tushka.