OKLAHOMA CITY — The Bedlam bug bit Hilldale a third consecutive time here Friday, but the Hornets helped it out by stinging themselves a few times.
An error-plagued seventh inning spoiled what just up to that time had been a standoff in a surprising matchup of pitchers in the Class 4A semifinal at USA Hall of Fame Stadium. Lone Grove’s Emmy Guthrie out-dueled not senior Drew Riddle, but sophomore Brooklyn Ellis in a 6-0 outcome that was far, far closer than the final tally will show.
Hilldale coach Darren Riddle told Ellis, who had pitched in spot starts against high-level non-district tournament competition this season as well as in spot relief duty, that she was getting the assignment a few hours prior to the 11 a.m. start. The Longhorns had seen Drew Riddle, who lost a 4-1 decision at the Durant Tournament in mid-September.
Ellis matched Guthrie in a scoreless duel through five, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth created by two errors. A second-inning infield single was the only hit off her to that point, while Guthrie had given up a double to Celeste Wood in the third and a single to left by Lexi Cramp in the fifth.
The Longhorns got on the board in the sixth, as left-handed hitting Lexi Meadows greeted Ellis with a leadoff opposite field single. Meadows stole second, and with Drew Riddle playing in at third, Chloe Yeatts hit a rocket just inches off Riddle’s glove and into left field, bringing Meadows home to break the deadlock.
Ellis escaped further damage when, with the bases loaded again and one out, Riddle snagged a line shot off the bat of Noa Dodson and doubled off Jordan Ramsey at first base.
Wood singled to lead off the Hilldale half of the sixth, got to second on Riley Bernoskie’s sacrifice bunt, and Drew Riddle walked to put the go-ahead run on — the first time the Hornets had two baserunners in the same inning. But Keely Ibarra, who came inches from a home run in the first, struck out, and Ellis flew out to short to end the inning.
It all changed in the seventh in a defensive collapse — three costly errors. Officially, Ellis left with just one earned run.
“I know people will look at this and ask why the senior’s not pitching and the sophomore is, but we had a 0-0 game going to the sixth and if we played defense in the seventh, the sophomore is right there with her,” the Hilldale coach said.
So he put his last of three daughters, in her final high school game, at third base — where the University of Tulsa recruited her to play.
“I wanted them to see a different look,” Darren Riddle said. “Brooklyn doesn’t throw as hard as Drew, but she spins the ball well, she has a really good curveball, a really good screwball and she locates the ball well.
“They only hit a couple balls hard against her.”
For the Hornets, Wood was 2-for-3 in the leadoff spot, as was Cramp with a pair of singles in the seven-hole, but it was Ibarra’s near miss that had Ramsey making a catch at the top of the fence in the left field corner that came close to giving Ellis an early 2-0 cushion to work with, with Riddle having drawn a two-out walk.
“Coach told me he wanted a different look,” said Ellis, who for the game gave up six hits, walked three and struck out three. “I just kept my balls moving around on them. I felt pretty good about it and knew my defense would help me out.”
Until it didn’t.
One of the errors was her own. She had to give a hard charge on a bunt by Malea McMurtrey with one on and one out in the fateful seventh. Her throw sailed over Cramp at first.
Guthrie gave up four hits and struck out 10. Both Wood and Cramp fanned on her the first time around, but figured her out a bit after that.
“At first I was up there focused on hitting it back up the middle. That didn’t work so I took it wherever she pitched it,” said Wood, who like Drew Riddle is also bound for TU.
The Hilldale coach paid his respects to Guthrie.
“I don’t know how much playing time she’ll get at OU but she’s definitely legit,” he said. “She locates well, and we helped her there, but that’s part of her effectiveness. A lot of her pitches start out over the plate and they go away.”
And thus, his ninth consecutive state trip ended like eight of the others. His middle daughter Destiny pitched a one-hitter in the 2013 title game for the title. His youngest made it four years straight and saw three Bedlam recruits send her and her team home. It was Oklahoma State’s Katelyn Carwile and Purcell last year, and OU’s Macy McAdoo and Tuttle in 2018.
Drew Riddle fought back tears as she awaited a final team meeting. Dad had a moment when, after quickly shutting down a talk with his seniors, sat momentarily against a railing with his COVID-19 mask pulled over his face.
“Every year is tough but when you’re kid is a senior and you know she won’t have this opportunity again, that’s hard, and I’ve coached those seniors a long time,” he said. “I know Drew wanted it for herself, she wanted it for me and she wanted it for her teammates.
“I’m just trying to hold it in. I couldn’t talk to them, it was too tough. I’ll keep it in until I get back to the hotel.”
Hilldale finishes 22-9. Lone Grove (31-2) will play Tuttle, who beat Tecumseh 9-5 with a six-run rally in the seventh inning Friday, in the championship game at noon Saturday.