TUPELO — After Tupelo freshman third baseman Megan Bray fielded a ground ball off the bat of Pittsburg’s Audrey Whitmore and threw across to first baseman Kylie Curry for the final out in a 10-5 regional championship victory Friday that sent the Lady Tigers to their school’s second fast-pitch state tournament ever, there was no wild celebration.

The Lady Tigers jogged calmly over to coach Brian Davis, then walked across to shake hands with the Lady Panthers, who had just seen their season ended by Tupelo’s second come-from-behind victory in as many days.

Even after the ceremonial handshakes, the mood on the home side of the field was strangely subdued. While their parents and fans celebrated Tupelo’s first fall state tournament bid since 2001, the Lady Tigers had their pictures taken, then walked quietly to the left field fence. There they sat in the shade and waited for Davis, who walked over, talked to them briefly and sent them to run laps around the field as punishment for mistakes they had made in the title game — a game they had WON.

To an outsider, Davis’s postgame regimen might have seemed strange, but there was a method in his apparent madness. Although Tupelo’s victory Friday might have been one of the biggest ever for the school’s softball program, it was no excuse to break from a routine that had just carried the Lady Tigers to their 39th win in 42 games this fall. Most of those same players had been eliminated from the 2005 fast-pitch playoffs by a seventh-inning homer in the regional title game, but in the year since that crushing loss, they had learned to win — and, more importantly, HOW to win.

“It just seemed like something that should happen,” senior second baseman Heather Martin — whose leadoff single ignited a three-run seventh-inning rally that put the game away — said of Friday’s win.

“We’ve said from the start that our goal was the state tournament,” said Davis, who capped his first year as Tupelo’s softball coach with the school’s first-ever slowpitch state title last spring. “We’ve still got some work to do. I’m glad to see they’re not just happy to get there.”

The Lady Tigers’ victory capped a memorable two days for Tupelo athletics. Clay Weller’s top-ranked Tigers posted back-to-back 15-0 victories Thursday to claim the regional baseball title, then the Tupelo girls rallied from a 4-0 deficit that evening to post a 6-5 victory and push Pittsburg to the brink of playoff elimination. The Tigers will go to Oklahoma City this week as the favorites to win a Class B title; the girls will be underdogs to a couple of other teams in the state tournament field (top-ranked Leedey and No. 2 Red Oak), but their regional title, coupled with the slowpitch crown, firmly established Tupelo as one of Oklahoma’s elite softball programs.

For the second day in a row, though, Pittsburg put Tupelo in an early hole before the Lady Tigers — who committed two errors to fuel a three-run second-inning rally by the Lady Panthers — rallied to post their 39th win in 42 games this fall.

“We weren’t very sharp mentally,” Davis said. “It’s a good thing we were swinging it good, because we sure weren’t catching it.”

After Pittsburg took its 3-1 lead in the top of the second inning, Tupelo scored a run in the second on a leadoff single by Kylie Curry and a two-out infield single by Kendra Pearce that landed between the mound and second base, and the Lady Tigers tied it in the third, when junior shortstop Katie Campbell — who had four hits Friday to cap a huge regional tournament — beat out an infield single and scored on an unusual 4-3-6 double play.

The game remained tied until the fifth, when Tupelo scored four runs to take the lead for good. Bray led off with single down the right-field line, stole second (one of four stolen bases for the Lady Tigers in the game), moved to third on a throwing error by Pittsburg catcher Jenna Harris on the steal and scored on another infield hit by Campbell. Ari Rice, who had three hits Friday, beat out a ground ball to shortstop for another infield single, then Lindsey Davidson — who had three hits and three RBIs in Thursday’s 6-5 win over Pittsburg — singled to left to score Campbell. Rice scored the third run of the inning and Davidson moved all the way to third when her single got past Pittsburg left fielder Alex Potts, and Davidson scored the final run of the inning on a wild pitch.

The Lady Panthers, who were retired in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings by Tupelo ace Kendra Pearce after their three-run outburst in the second, cut the lead in half with a pair of runs in the sixth on a bad-hop leadoff triple by Kelsey Rowland, a groundout, a one-out single by Ashley Tharp and a two-out RBI single by Alexis Shannon, but Tupelo put the game away with three more runs in the bottom of the inning.

Heather Martin started the rally with a single up the middle, stole second, moved up on passed ball and, after Pearce walked, scored on the front end of a double steal. Pearce moved to third on a Bray groundout and scored on Campbell’s single to center, and Rice plated Campbell with the final run of the inning, ripping a double to the wall in left-center for her second RBI of the game.

Rice also drove in the Lady Tigers’ first run with a one-out single in the first to score Pearce (who led off with a bloop single to center), and she combined with Pearce and Cambpell for nine of Tupelo’s 14 hits, five RBIs and six runs scored in the win over Pittsburg. Pearce, who improved to 27-1 this season on the mound (with her only setback a 1-0 loss to Coleman in the Tupelo Tournament last month) with her win Friday, was 6-for-10 in Tupelo’s three regional tournament contests; Campbell finished the two days with eight hits in 11 at-bats and drove in eight runs while scoring six times, and she was also the winning pitcher (to improve to 12-2) in Thursday’s 9-1 win over Battiest); and Rice was 6-for-9 with four runs scored and five RBIs.

“I brought those three into my office this morning and gave them what-for,” Davis said after Friday’s win. “I challenged them, and they really responded.”

Tupelo won’t know about its opening-round state tournament pairing until Thursday, but Davis told his team he had been contacted by Mike Lawless, coach of the top-ranked and defending Class 2A Washington Lady Warriors, about playing a game (probably Tuesday at Tupelo) that will be the last prep for both teams heading into the state tournament.

“I think that shows people around the state have a lot of respect for our program,” Davis told his team.

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