OKLAHOMA CITY — It seemed only fitting that No. 4 Latta would have to get past No. 2 Dale to win a Class 2A State fastpitch softball championship. And the Lady Panthers did just that.
Latta scored all five of its runs in the top of the fourth inning and held off the Lady Pirates 5-3 in the Class 2A state finals Saturday afternoon at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
Latta won the title with a 34-6 record, while Dale was runner-up at 36-5.
It was a sweet measure of revenge for the Lady Panthers. Dale had scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to shock Latta 3-2 in last year’s state tournament at the Ball Fields at Firelake in Shawnee.
‘Last year in October lit a fire under us and we’ve not looked back. We just kept pressing forward,” said Latta head coach Missy Rogers amidst the postgame celebration.
Latta junior Jade Sanders, who pitched every inning but one during the Lady Panthers’ three state tournament games, said last year’s loss to Dale was in the back of her mind.
“It really pushed us a lot. We wanted to beat them so bad,” she said.
Sanders struck out five, walked two and scattered seven Dale hits in the complete-game outing for the Lady Panthers. She had pitched nine innings the day before in Latta’s upset win over No. 1 Silo in a semifinal contest that lasted 10 innings.
“It was OK. I just iced a lot and worked hard. I felt fine,” Sanders said.
If that wasn’t enough, Sanders led Latta’s nine-hit offense, going 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
“She’s such a competitor,” Rogers said. “She’s a bulldog in the circle.”
Latta’s huge fifth-inning volley included back-to-back run-scoring hits by No. 8 hitter Laraby Jennings and nine-hole hitter Camryn Jesse, who smashed an RBI double down the left-field line.
Taryn Batterton and Sanders also had hits in the uprising, that included a walk, two Dale errors and an RBI groundout by Jaylee Willis.
Brylea Russell went 2-for-3 and clubbed two doubles for the Lady Panthers, while Jennings finished 2-for-3 with a run scored.
Makenzy Herman led the Dale offense from the top of the DHS lineup, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Danyn Lang finished 2-for-3 with a double and a sacrifice fly, while Anna Hester added two bunt singles for the Lady Pirates. Addie Bell was the losing pitcher. She had no strikeouts and three walks in seven innings.
Many members of the media and Class 2A softball fans felt like Latta was a big underdog against both Silo and Dale. But Rogers wasn’t having any of that.
“I feel like in my heart we were the favorites. We never looked at any opponent and said they were better than us,” she said. “We went out there and played our hardest and played our hearts out. It’s just unbelievable. The heart we have shown this week, continuously rising to the occasion. We showed a great team effort in this whole state tournament.”
Latta won it’s last state title in 2016 and – oddly enough — beat Dale 5-3 in that championship contest.