OKLAHOMA CITY – Coweta and Carl Albert each entered the Class 5A fast-pitch softball tournament with the proverbial targets on their backs – Coweta as the No. 1-ranked team, Carl Albert as the program with seven titles since 2006 and three straight title-game appearances.
Both survived and advanced in Friday’s state semifinals. Coweta took advantage of Lawton Eisenhower’s early shaky defense to win 5-1 at the USA Hall of Fame Complex, while second-ranked Carl Albert needed a four-run seventh inning to put away Claremore, also by a 5-1 score.
Coweta (34-3) and Carl Albert (25-14) will play for the title at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at USA Hall of Fame Stadium. The Tigers, who have won 32 of their last 33 games, are seeking their first state title since 2005.
“Early (in the season), I don’t think a lot of people knew, but we knew what we had,” Coweta coach Blake Dunn said. “Then we started winning some games and now I don’t think there’s any doubt. We’ve had a pretty special year.
“Carl Albert is a good team. We’re excited to see how it pans out.”
Coweta scored all of its runs in the first two innings against Eisenhower (22-10). The Tigers had only one hit in the first inning – an infield single by Sherri Mason – but the Eagles committed two errors and pitcher Jennaye Williams threw three wild pitches that led to three Coweta runs.
Eisenhower pulled within 3-1 in the top of the second on Aamiyah Roberson’s RBI double to right field, but Coweta’s Bailey Cooper delivered a two-run single to right in the bottom of the second to make it 5-1.
Coweta pitcher Tarun Robinson took it from there, allowing only three hits over the final five innings (and six overall). She finished with seven strikeouts.
“Tarun pitched a heck of a game,” Dunn said. “Our girls, after that first day (of the tournament) dealt with the pressure of the atmosphere and being here much better, I thought. We minimized our strikeouts from the first game. We left a few too many (nine) stranded on the bases. Defensively, we’ve got to make the routine plays and limit our mistakes. We’ve got a good group and I’m excited for (Saturday). I think they’re ready and hooked up.”
In the other semifinal, Carl Albert had 12 hits but the Titans had trouble scoring runners, stranding nine. Pitcher Marissa Frolich singled and scored in the second inning on a double by Bryce Atkins to put the Titans ahead, but Claremore (23-14) answered in the fourth. Maddox Thomas singled to center field and raced to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Terran Schornick.
Emily Rogers followed with a hot shot that deflected off Frolich’s glove toward second baseman Ragan Kelley and Rogers beat Kelley’s throw to first base, allowing Thomas to score the tying run for the Zebras.
Claremore’s Paiten Reavis and Jadyn Muns singled to start the sixth inning, but the Zebras came away empty as Frolich recorded three quick outs.
The Titans broke through with five hits in the seventh inning, batting around against Claremore pitcher Alyssa Poorboy. Abbey Rogers had a two-run double to right-center field and Frolich added a two-run single to left field that gave Carl Albert a comfortable 5-1 lead. Frolich retired the Zebras in order in the bottom of the seventh, finishing the game with her sixth strikeout.
“Definitely, experience made a difference,” Carl Albert coach Colin White said. “This will be the fourth final to go to for this senior bunch. That’s impressive. The experience and being here and the tradition of the program definitely helped, but we knew we had a quality team in the other dugout. My girls fought well, hung in there and played a really good game.”
Claremore had beaten Carl Albert 11-10 Aug. 29. Zebras coach Keeli Coyle told her players they should be proud of pushing the Titans to the brink in the postseason.
“If you’re just looking at the game, we missed an opportunity (in the sixth) and that’s disappointing,” Coyle said. “We had our opportunities and didn’t capitalize when we needed to, but they’ve got nothing to hang their heads about. We had an awesome season, record-wise, district finish-wise, regional finish-wise. We did some things we haven’t done in a long time.”