, Muskogee, OK


April 30, 2014

Stately once again

Muskogee does it the hard way to punch state ticket

To use a golf term familiar to Keith Coleman — Muskogee’s slowpitch coach who doubles as the director of the statewide O-tour golf tour — his team used every last mulligan here Wednesday.

Putting their season on the brink with a stunning 10-8 loss to Broken Bow, the Lady Roughers rallied for three wins, sweeping the Lady Savages in the Class 6A regional championship round, 16-2 and 14-2 to advance yet again to the state tournament.

“Living on the edge,” said senior Nia Maxwell. “It’s no fun playing easy games.”

Broken Bow’s frequent trip to Muskogee’s regional has ended in a two-and-out, three-hour bus trip back home. Not so on Wednesday. Erica Baker’s three-run home run gave BBHS the lead for good and suddenly, Muskogee, with its first regional tournament loss since 2009, was looking at the possibility of missing the regional final for the first time in the current format against a team that beat them 11-2 on this very field in the Muskogee Slug-Out in early April.

Didn’t happen.

Shaylee Rowland’s three-run home run and a two-run shot by Dee Emarthle, along with a 3-for-3 outing by Carlee Gann, helped MHS beat Poteau 15-0, sparked by a nine-run second inning. Then they got a double-dip of atonement.

Muskogee (26-10) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first against Broken Bow, then put five on the board in the second. Three came off a three-run homer by Rowland, who posted her second six-RBI game of the day after a three-run double in the fourth to cap a 4-for-4 game. Broken Bow’s only runs came off homers by Michaela Richbourg and Hannah Scott.

The 17-hit assault was aided by Lexi Watson’s 3-for-4, four RBI game. Amber Johnson was 3-for-3 and Emarthle also added three hits.

The finale started with a six-spot for MHS, capped by Brook Hendrickson’s two-run triple which right fielder Alyssa Baker lost in the sun while retreating. Maxwell, who was 3-for-3 in her final home game, tripled off the wall for one of three second-inning runs, then after an RBI double in the fifth, scored on Hendrickson’s sacrifice fly for the game-winner, Muskogee’s 23rd regional title in program history.

“I’m not going to lie,” said Rowland, the team’s other senior starter. “After the Broken Bow loss me and Nia did cry. We had to turn around immediately and play Poteau. We took the team out to left field and both of us told them this could be our last game and we needed to get to next week where we belong. We toughed it out and that’s all that matters, I guess.”

Coleman had a hint this wasn’t the same Broken Bow team that had struggled in regionals past. The Savages with three seniors finished 20-9 and split with Rattan, a team Muskogee beat by one run in the Festival of Champions.

“Being so far from here we only had one common opponent and I made some calls to find out what I could. Every coach I talked to said they were good. I didn’t recognize many of them so they must be young. But they outplayed us that first game. The last three games offensively, we were about as good as we could be and we got off to a good start, which I thought was big.”

Muskogee opened with a 21-2 win against Sallisaw. Rowland’s grand slam was part of her other six-RBI game.

Now it’s on to state — set for Tuesday at the Ball Fields at Firelake in Shawnee —  for Coleman and company. The last time they won state was the last time they lost a regional game.

“That year I thought we were one of the top three teams but we were the best team that day,” Coleman said. “I suspect we’ll get Moore (the two have split a pair of meetings this year) and we’ll have to play our very best against them. It’s always whoever puts together the best day will win, and it can be any team up there.”

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