By Chuck Reherman
SHAWNEE – Keeping up the battle.
Yukon overcame a late momentum swing and got the biggest hit in the game from one of the youngest players to earn a berth into the semifinals of the class 6A State Softball Tournament.
Freshman A.J. Rayburn’s solo home run in the top of the eighth inning and clutch pitching from Bree Johnson gave the Millerettes a 3-2 win and a trip to the semifinals in the tournament held at the Ballfields at Firelake in Shawnee.
The Millerettes, 23-8, win sealed an all west semifinal and final for the state tournament. YHS plays Edmond North, 28-3, at 1:30 p.m. in one semifinals. North beat Sand Springs 10-4 in nine innings to advance. The other semifinal pits Edmond Deer Creek (28-3) against Westmoore (30-5) also at 1:30 p.m.
The state tournament has been canceled for today and tomorrow and has been rescheduled for Wednesday. The game times will remain the same and the state finals will be played at 6:30 p.m. that day.
“I’m still shaking,” Millerette head coach Katy Hoke said. “I am so proud of them for fighting like that. They didn’t quit, that team was coming at them and they kept battling and battling.
“A.J.’s hit in the eighth, oh my goodness,” Hoke said. “I don’t know if she has ever hit a home run in her life. Bree did a good job on the mound. She had good leadership tonight talking the girls through when we had runners on bases and calling them in together. I could go out there and talk them through it, but I think them talking themselves through it, they know what they are suppose to be doing and them calming themselves down is just a plus. The leadership on the field is just great right now.”
The Millerettes led 2-0 through five innings, but saw Broken Arrow rally back with runs in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings to send the contest to extra innings.
That’s when the freshman Rayburn, the ninth batter in the line-up, delivered the hit of the game. Rayburn stepped into a 1-0 pitch and sent the ball over the left field wall that touched off a celebration at home plate.
“That was my second home run of my career, but it is the biggest of my life,” Rayburn said. “It was amazing, it was clutch. I was looking at her and said no, no. no, but it was just perfect timing.
“I had a feeling that this was the pitch and I had to go get it,” she said. “I was ready for it.”
Broken Arrow, though, had the chance to come back and tie the game and even win it, putting runners on first and second with two out. That’s when Johnson kicked her game into high gear.
Johnson worked a 1-2 count on BA’s Anita Hall, who then fouled off four pitches and worked the count to 3-2 before firing in a called third strike to end the game.
“After they got those two runners on base, I wanted to throw up,” laughed Hoke. “We let Ashlynn (catcher Bruce) call the pitches and she has done a phenomenal job all year. They pay attention to where those girls set up and what they have don’t before. They are smart girls and know what they are doing.
“I’m not sure every pitch was working, we had a few too many walks,” she said. “Obviously walking the lead-off hitter in the eighth in the seventh hurt us. The girls are working their butts off and earning it.”
Broken Arrow tied the game in the bottom of the seventh after Maci Cole walked to lead off the inning. Brooke Mason’s single to left field tied the game with two out. McKayla Carney’s hit put the winning run on third, but again Johnson got a ground out to end the inning and send the game to extra innings.
The Millerettes made the plays they needed to all night to get the win and one other big play came in the bottom of the sixth inning after Broken Arrow had cut the lead to 2-1. With the tying run on second base, Raegan Edwards hit a line shot to left center field that looked to be a base hit and send in the go ahead run. But, Brooklyn Mathers raced to her right and made a diving catch on the line drive to end the inning.
The Millerettes had taken the lead in the first inning. With runners on second and third (Hannah Hurtz walked and Bruce doubled), Johnson hit a slow roller to third that sent Hurtz to the plate.
Bruce gave the Millerettes a 2-0 lead in the fourth with a solo home run over the right centerfield wall.
“We have Edmond North now and we know it will be a tough challenge,” Hoke said. “They had a tough game also and know how to battle back. We will have to continue to battle and play our game. We have told the girls all season that if we play like we know how, we can play with anyone in the state.”