Shawnee — For most of the slow-pitch softball season, the top-ranked Dale Lady Pirates have been widely considered the team to beat in Class 4A.
During a Tuesday morning first-round matchup at the Class 4A State Tournament, No. 10 Latta came within an eyelash as the team to beat them.
Latta led 5-4 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when Dale cleanup hitter Ryanne Griggs hit a lazy fly ball to right-center field. But Latta defenders Jordyn Scott and Savannah Humphrey collided just before either one could make the catch. The ball dropped to the ground, and two Dale runners who were on second and third easily scored to give the Lady Pirates an improbable 6-5, walk-off victory.
“That was just softball. We gave it our best and had them beat. All we had to do is catch one ball,” said Latta head coach Jim Foster. “I didn’t hear any communication, and we ran into each other. We don’t generally do that. It just didn’t work out for us.”
Dale (34-8), a winner of 17 of its last 18 games, advanced to the semifinals while Latta’s season came to an abrupt end at 20-13.
“I was proud of my girls. We were under-ranked all year. We showed right there we were as good as anybody in the state,” Foster said. “We took some losses early because we hadn’t practiced. We got better every week we came out. I just wish we could have gone farther.”
Foster told his team during a post-game speech that Dale coach Andy Powell admitted that Latta had outplayed his Lady Pirates.
“We didn’t get it done, but I’m still proud of them,” Foster said.
Latta went right to work, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. Maebree Abney doubled to the fence in left-center to lead things off, and she scored on an RBI single by Maria Priest. After an intentional walk to Scott, Madison Abney’s base hit to right pushed across another run to put the Lady Panthers ahead 2-0. Scott tried to advance to third on the play, but she was thrown out.