By Jimmy Stinson
FORT GIBSON – The fastpitch battle between Class 4A No. 2 Fort Gibson (28-5) and Class 3A No. 1 Sequoyah (28-6) on Monday in Fort Gibson was a pitcher’s duel with plenty of emotion in both dugouts.
The team that makes the least mistakes in that kind of game usually comes out on top and that was the Lady Indians as two Lady Tiger miscues in the top of the seventh inning pushed Sequoyah to a 2-1 victory.
“That is why we schedule them,” said Sequoyah coach Jeff Turtle. “We play them and Red Oak to get this kind of competition before districts.”
Fort Gibson’s Madison Higley and Sequoyah’s Kati Phillips battled each other in the circle and the two teams were scoreless going into the fifth inning. Through four innings, Phillips (28-6) allowed only two three base runners, two courtesy of walks and one on an error while, Higley (28-5) allowed six runners to reach base, a two-out single in the first, a walk and single in the second inning, two singles in the third, and a walk in the fourth, but none of the runners got past second base.
On Senior Night, the Lady Tigers’ lone senior Brooke Benham got Fort Gibson on the board first in the bottom of the fifth inning when she scored on a single to centerfield by Emilee Rigsby after reaching on a single and moving to second on a sacrifice by Sage Stout.
That looked like the only run Fort Gibson would need as Higley retired the Lady Indians in order in the sixth inning and looked to be on the way to her 29th victory of the year.
However, Sequoyah took advantage of the Fort Gibson miscues and plated two runs in the top of the seventh. Syndi Smith led off the inning with a grounder between first and second that bounced off the glove of Miranda Cherry and skirted far enough away for Smith to reach base.
Harvey, batting in the seventh spot, put down a sacrifice bunt, but in an attempt to get Smith at second, Higley’s throw was wide to the left and ended up in centerfield. Following a groundout by Merissa Smith, pinch hitter Taylor Thompson plated both Smith and Harvey with a double to give the Lady Indians the lead.
”I was just praying to God,” Thompson said, “to calm me down and let me get a hit.”
Fort Gibson had one last chance in the bottom of the seventh when Higley, making her first plate appearance of the day, singled to give Fort Gibson a chance. A sacrifice by Benham moved Higley to second but that is where she would stay as a groundout by Stout and a liner to third by Mackenzie Williams sealed the game for Sequoyah.
Fort Gibson coach Jaime Snyder agreed with Turtle as to why scheduling a game like this is beneficial to a team.
”You can’t simulate that pressure in practice,” said Snyder. “To experience a close game is good for us. Even though we got beat, we still learn from it and when we get to regionals, we know we’ve been in pressure situations.”
Benham had mixed emotions after her final home game.
”I would say it is bittersweet being my last regular season game but I’m ready to start the next chapter in my life,” she said. “Scoring the run was nice, but it is a team sport and I just did what I could for the team”
Higley went the distance for Fort Gibson, allowing two unearned runs, five hits, two walks and nine strikeouts. Phillips picked up the win, allowing one run on three hits, three walks and three strikeouts. Meagan Towie was 2-for-4 at the plate for Sequoyah and Thompson was 1-for-1 with the two RBIs. Benham was 1-2 with the run scored and Rigsby was 1-for-3 with the RBI for Fort Gibson.
Sequoyah will play Red Oak at 4:30 p.m. today in its final warm up before districts. The Lady Indians will then host districts and play Keys at noon Thursday while Verdigris will face Kansas at 2 p.m.
Fort Gibson, by virtue of the bye, is off until next week’s regionals.