Latta's Tara MacCollister tags out a base runner during the Class 2A State Tournament. Latta defeated Healdton 7-2 in the 2A semifinals on Friday.

Richard R. Barron - Ada, Oklahoma

The Latta Lady Panthers scored four runs in the first inning and Keeli Kessinger hit a two-run homer in the fifth en route to a 7-2 victory over the Healdton Lady Bulldogs in the second round of the Class 2A State Softball Tournament Friday afternoon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

The win put the Lady Panthers (24-6) in the state championship game for the first time ever.

Tara MacCollister, Caitlyn James and Kessinger singled with one in the top of the first to load the bases for Latta. Taylor McDonald then hit a grounder to third and Healdton’s Aundie Pemberton threw home, but the throw went to the backstop allowing MacCollister and James to score. Autumn Lawrence hit an RBI groundout to score Kessinger, and Lashun Oakley added an RBI single to score McDonald, and the Lady Panthers led 4-0 after just one half of an inning.

“We got off to a great start,” Latta head coach Jimmy Foster said. “We hit the ball real well early. Their pitcher had some mistakes and we made her pay. We pitched it not as well as I thought we could. Defensively we showed our nerves there at the end, but we played well enough (for the victory).”

Second-ranked Healdton got on the scoreboard in the third inning when Katy Fletcher reached on an error, went to third on a single by Courtney Griffin and scored on a sacrifice fly by Kadan Brady.

In the fifth, James led off with a double and then scored on a long home run to centerfield by Kessinger that put Latta on top 6-1. Latta’s Sara Miller had an RBI double in the top of the seventh for the Lady Panthers’ final run.

“When we added runs in those other two innings (fifth and seventh) that helped us a bunch. They (Healdton) had some chances to score, but when you can still get a run here and there (like we did) it makes it hard to come back. I thought we did a great job of maintaining composure and keeping things going,” Foster said.

Fletcher doubled and scored on a Brady single in the bottom of the fifth to get the Lady Bulldogs within 6-2.

Kessinger finished 3-for-3 with three runs, two RBIs, a double and a home run and James went 2-for-4 with two runs and a double to lead the Lady Panthers.

“This is great (getting to the title game). I don’t have nine players, I’ve got 18 out there and they’re all great kids. I want everyone to know how great these kids are. They deserve it because they’ve worked hard. We started in the last part of May and played through June and we were playing for tomorrow (the state championship) and that’s what we worked for,” Foster said. “Our goal is to play on the last day of the season, and we’ve met that goal. Now all we have to do is go win it.”

Fletcher was 2-for-4 with two runs and a double and Griffin went 2-for-4 to pace the Lady Bulldogs.