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(Photo by Richard R. Barron)

Richard R. Barron
Ada Evening News

Things couldn’t have started or finished much better for Latta in Thursday’s Class 4A slowpitch regional tournament at Dale. In between, though, the Lady Panthers did a few things to concern Jim Foster heading into his program’s fourth spring state tournament in five seasons.

Latta, ranked No. 7 in 4A, scored 12 runs on 12 hits in the first inning of a 16-2 run-rule victory over Chisholm to open the regional, and the Lady Panthers broke open a close game by scoring 12 runs in their final at-bat of the day in the sixth inning of a 19-6 victory over Stroud that stamped their ticket to Tuesday’s state tournament at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.

But some of the “before and after”, including a 20-7 run-rule loss to No. 4 Dale in the championship game, wasn’t quite as pretty.

“We made some bonehead plays that we’ll have to correct by Tuesday,” Foster said after seeing his club finish the day at 19-13. “Dale is a good team, but once you get to the state tournament, anybody can win it.

“You have to play defense and not make mistakes,” he added. “If we can work that out by Tuesday, we’ll be okay; if not, we’ll play one game and go home.”

Consolation Championship

Latta 19, Stroud 6

After two of Latta’s five errors in the game gift-wrapped four Stroud runs in the bottom of the fifth to make it 7-6, the first 13 Lady Panthers to hit in the top of the sixth reached base either via a walk or a hit.

Makenzi Lamb started the rally with an infield single off the leg of losing pitcher Kylie Wages, then she drove in the 10th run in the inning with a hustling double to left-center and, for the second time in the frame, scored on an RBI single by Cheyenne Crews.

Sandwiched between the leadoff single by Lamb and a sacrifice fly by Sara Miller that capped the rally and accounted for Miller’s third RBI in the inning, Latta sent 16 hitters to the plate, and the first 11 — and 12 of the first 13 — scored. In addition to the two run-scoring hits by Crews, the sixth featured Miller’s two-run double, two-run singles by Keeli Kessinger and winning pitcher Siera Green and a run-scoring hit by Devin Lyon.

Every position in the Latta batting order scored at least once in the inning, and Katie Miller — running for Crews, the Latta catcher — joined Lamb with two runs scored, including the final run in the frame on her older sister’s sac fly.

“If we will concentrate at the plate and hit good pitches, we can do that,” Foster said. “When we don’t swing at good pitches, we struggle.”

Before the huge finale to the day, Latta had struggled — especially on defense — for most of the previous 13 innings. One of Chisholm’s two runs in the opener was unearned, the Lady Panthers committed five errors and gave Dale several other extra outs on plays they should have made in the championship game, and five of Stroud’s six runs were unearned.

Solo home runs by Sara Miller and Kessinger (her 20th of the season) in the top of the fifth gave Latta a 7-6 lead, then two throwing errors on routine plays led to all four Stroud runs in the bottom of the inning before the Lady Panthers recorded an out. But after Brittney Miller’s two-run single made it a one-run game, the Latta defense finally stopped the bleeding with a nifty 6-3-2 double play that ended with a nice throw from Kessinger at first to Crews, who blocked the plate on a slide by Miller for the second out. Katelyn Carney then popped out to Taylor McDonald at short to end the inning, and Green worked around an error to keep Stroud off the board in the bottom of the sixth and end the game on the run rule.

Latta, which has been on a roll offensively for the past month but has committed 18 errors in its last four games, banged out 20 hits in the victory. Sara Miller finished 2-for-2 with four RBIs (all in her final three at-bats); Kessinger also drove in four runs with her homer in the fifth, her single in the sixth and a sacrifice fly in the third that gave Latta a 3-1 lead; and Green, Lamb and Crews were all 3-for-4 in the victory.

In addition to her two RBIs in the sixth, Crews followed an RBI single by freshman Brianna Hanson that scored Lamb (who had doubled) with a single of her own to score Hanson in  the second and put Latta up 2-0.  Hanson and another freshman, Amy Hooser, had two hits apiece for Latta, which got at least one hit, a run scored and/or an RBI out of every hitter in the lineup.

CHAMPIONSHIP

Dale 20, Latta 7

While Kessinger, the Latta cleanup hitter, was walked intentionally three times, Dale slugger Leah Bohannon had a field day, hitting a pair of home runs — including a grand slam in the sixth — and finishing 5-for-5 with nine RBIs as the Lady Pirates (32-4) won for the 23rd time in their last 24 games.

Dale led 14-3 heading to the bottom of the third before Lyon’s three-run homer (following a walk to Kessinger) made it 14-6, but the Lady Panthers managed just two hits and one unearned run in their final three at-bats. Bohannon’s slam was part of a six-run Dale outburst that ended the game on the run rule.

In addition to Bohannon’s big effort, the Lady Pirates got three hits — including a three-run homer in a six-run second inning — from Danielle Dockrey and three more from eight-hole hitter Sam Barry. Dale outhit Latta, 22-8, with McDonald finishing 2-for-3 with a run scored ahead of Lyon’s homer in the third and an RBI single in a two-run first-inning rally.

First Round

Latta 16, Chisholm 2

McDonald had a two-run homer and an RBI single, Kessinger also hit a two-run homer, and the Lady Panthers — who had 19 hits in just three at-bats — got a two-run double from Crews and a two-run single from leadoff hitter Kaitlin Hisaw (her second hit in the inning) in their first-inning outburst to put the game away.

Latta ended it on the run rule with a four-run third inning started by Sara Miller’s triple and highlighted by Lyon’s two-run double, RBI singles from McDonald and Green and a double by Kessinger, who scored on Lyon’s hit.

McDonald finished 3-for-3 with four RBIs and three runs scored, Kessinger was 2-for-2 and also scored three times, Green (who allowed just two hits and one earned run) was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBIs, and Hisaw, Miller, Lyon, Lamb and Hanson had two hits apiece as part of a 19-hit Latta attack.

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