, Muskogee, OK


April 25, 2013

Stately, again: Lady Roughers lay claim to another regional title

It comes second hand, this Muskogee ritual of a Class 6A regional championship picture that has occurred now 22 times after Wednesday’s tournament at Rougherettes Park.

There’s always unfinished business, so maybe there was a pronounced symbolism that the process of getting out to right field, posing in front of the scoreboard reading Muskogee 13, Poteau 0, then clearing out seemed to be more efficient that in previous years.

“We know what’s expected and we expect to go play well,” Lady Roughers coach Keith Coleman said of his club, who will take a No. 4 ranking and a 30-8 record to ASA Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City next Wednesday.

“But it’s a one-day tournament and the team that goes up there and puts together three complete games has a great shot at winning. If you play bad, you may be one and done. But I expect this team to have just as good a chance as any we’ve sent.”

Wednesday’s regional was one of those three complete-game episodes, starting with  a 12-1 win over Broken Bow. A 12-5 win against Poteau in the winner’s bracket final was capped by a six-run sixth inning to break open a 6-5 contest. Poteau, finishing at 22-14 and ninth in the rankings, beat Broken Bow 4-3 and needed to double-dip the Lady Roughers to derail the customary photo shoot.

Nothing doing.

It was a combination of Muskogee’s 14-hit offensive pressure and the Lady Pirates’ defensive gaffes — five errors in all — that would make it a quick work for the host team.

A three-run second on a run-scoring single by Dee Emarthle and a two-run single by Carlee Gann drew first blood. Muskogee plated five more in the second as Paige Gann pushed across a run on a fielder’s choice grounder before Jessi Venable laced a three-run single, the ball getting between Maci McMillin and Shelby Standridge in left field to empty the bases and landing Venable at third. She then scored on Nia Maxwell’s liner which Standridge dropped in left center.

In the fourth, Emarthle blasted her seventh home run this season, a two-run shot, and Morgan Taylor finished the game with a two-run double. Three more Poteau errors in the inning contributed to the five-run finish.

Emarthle finished the game 3-for-3.

“I’m excited, this being my first regional,” the freshman said, then shrugged off the reality of a bigger stage next week, agreeing with the suggestion that the grass grows there just like it does at Rougherettes Park. “I’ll be ready for it.”

Both Ganns had two hits as did Rowland, who began the bottom of the first with a double off the fence in left. A deep fly at the fence in right on her final at-bat was caught by Ashley Bandy, leaving the junior one homer shy of tying Hannah Hamilton’s single-season record of 20 home runs, set in 2010 and matched by CoCo Epps last season.

Rowland began the day with a two-run shot, her 19th, as part of a three-RBI game against Broken Bow.

“To me it’s not going to be a big deal, I mean that’s not what I’m going to focus on next week,” Rowland said. “To go up there and hit two in that setting would be great but tough. We’ll see if I can tie it.”

But then, she added, there’s the adrenaline of the excitement of being back on familiar ground that could get it accomplished.

“It is state, so I’ll be a little more excited,” she said. “But it’s about winning and we have a great chance. I think we were better last year. Defense has been the key this year and our offense has come right in with it. I think we’ll be one of the better teams there.”

Their last state title was 2009. Since then, it’s been out in the quarterfinals in 2010, a semifinal loss in 2011 and most recently, a 23-16 quarterfinal loss to Broken Arrow in a slugfest last season.

The only suspense of the Lady Roughers’ day was addressed in the Muskogee half of the sixth in the winner’s bracket final. Brook Hendrickson and Rowland each singled in a run with the bases loaded before Paige Gann and Emarthle each doubled in a pair.

“We got on an offensive roll at the right time,” Coleman said. “You get on that and stay on it, good things can happen.”

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