Jeff Cali Sports Editor email@example.com
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.
The Lady Panthers pushed across three more runs in the top of the third to grab a 5-0 advantage. Maebree Abney again started that uprising with a leadoff single. Maria Priest drew a four-pitch walk before Scott’s base hit loaded the bases.
Madison Abney again came up with a big hit, lining a single to right that drove in two runs. Latta scored another run on Dale’s only error of the game, but Scott had some more bad luck on the base paths as she was thrown out at home trying to score on the same play.
Dale bunched six singles together that produced three runs in the bottom of the third — including a two-run base knock by Danni Manning and an RBI hit by Jaelin Flewallen.
The bottom of the seventh started innocently enough, as Latta hurler Bailey Eckert caught a popup for out No. 1 and Maebree Abney robbed Dale’s Taylor Powell of an infield hit with a nice play at shortstop for the second out.
Dale leadoff hitter Regan Holt singled, and Flewallen drew a walk. Lacey Hood followed with an RBI hit and both Lady Pirate runners advanced on a wild throw to the plate to set up the big at-bat by Griggs, who led a 13-hit Dale attack by finishing 3-for-4.
Manning and McKensi Stith added two hits each for the winners.
Madison Abney went 2-for-3 with three RBIs for Latta, while sister Maebree finished 2-for-4 and scored twice. Scott also contributed two hits, while five other LHS players had at least one single.
Foster must say good-bye to seniors Anna Wood, Madison Abney, Scott and Shelbey Parnacher.
“All four of them have been here all four years, and they’ve worked so hard,” he said. “They’ve been to the state tournament in slow-pitch all four years. They’ve been good leaders. They’re a great bunch. You just can’t say enough about them. I’m going to miss them.”