By Chuck Reherman
Suffering a heart-breaking loss in a regional tournament is something that is hard to get over. Having two and both coming to you biggest rival, makes it unbearable.
Yukon, after losing a 5-4 heartbreaker in the winners bracket final, held what looked to be an insurmountable 9-2 lead only to see Mustang rally back and hand Yukon a 12-9 loss in the Region IV finals Thursday at the Millerette Softball Complex.
For the Millerettes, it was the third time this season they held a lead going into the late innings only to see the Lady Broncos rally and win.
YHS, who had to come back through the elimination round, beat Norman North earlier Thursday 2-0 to face the Lady Broncos for the regional title.
“The girls fought really hard today, we just quite didn’t have enough,” Millerette head coach Katy Hoke said. “Mustang is a fighting group, they don’t quit. I don’t feel like we did either, but they don’t quit. You have to battle all the way through until seven innings.
“Today, I felt like we ran out of steam,” Hoke said. “We kept hitting, but pitching just ran out of steam. We did have chances in the later innings, but they may some good plays on balls that looked like they were going to be possible gappers.That was a hard one to swallow, especially for the seniors.
“Kaylee (Bradley) threw a good game, I think she just got tired and Mustang was aggressive with the bats. We would start with a couple of good pitches on the corners and then the slightest mistake and they were capitalizing on it.”
It look early on as if the Millerettes were going to force a second championship game taking a 4-2 lead through three and scoring five times in the fourth to open a 9-2 lead that put the Lady Broncos back on their heels a bit.
But, everything went south for the Millerettes after that. Mustang responded with six runs in the bottom of the fourth to close to 9-8, then pushed four more across in the the fifth inning to open a 12-9 lead.
The big blow in the fourth inning was a grand slam home run by Payton Henry that cut the lead to 9-8. After an Eden Anderson single tied the game in the fifth, Henry delivered the go ahead RBI single. Cottrell singled in two runs to open the 12-9 lead.
Yukon had taken the initial lead in the first on an RBI double from McKenna Johnson. She drove in AJ Rayburn, who had reached on a fielder’s choice with two outs.
The Millerettes made it a 4-1 lead in the third inning on a three-run home run by Johnson. Johnson’s shot came after Mustang intentionally walked Rayburn.
Yukon opened a 9-2 lead in the fourth when two runs scored after Taryn Blazevich laid down a bunt and a throw got away from the pitcher. Rayburn, Johnson and Maddie Montgomery had back-to-back-to-back RBI singles to open the 9-2 lead.
“After we gave up the lead after being up 9-2, the did lose our momentum,” Hoke said. “It was very hard and we did get some runners on base, we didn’t capitalize and get the runners across.
“We are very proud of the girls for fighting, I still our regional was the most difficult one,” she said. “No one else had a four seed that had the same record as our one and two seeds. Having to play that four seed with a 20-10 record made it a lot more challenging for us, because they are a good program. Everyone else is playing teams with 5-15 records and it just so happened to fall that way for us.
“I told the girls they battled hard and that they had a harder road than most people did. Ultimately, we fell short, but we are very proud of them, they way they fought and hit the ball, they gave it everything they had.”
The Millerettes did have a tough battle with Norman North to reach the finals, scoring a pair of runs in the seventh inning to pull out a 2-0 victory.
NNHS held YHS to only five hits in the game and two of those came in the seventh, the big one off the bat of Bradley. She hit a two-run scoring single with the bases loaded and two out to give the Millerettes the lead.
Norman North did get the tying run on base in the bottom of the seventh, by Jaycee McKee got the final batter to ground out to complete her six-hit shutout.
In the winner’s bracket final on Wednesday, a costly mistakes by the Millerettes in the bottom of the eighth inning allowed the game winning run to score, 5-4.
Henry, who had singled and moved to third with two outs, scored when the throw back to the pitcher got away from her.
Mustang had rallied to tie the game 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning on a double by Cassie Passwaters.
The Millerettes had broken a 1-1 tie on a solo home run by Rayburn in the fourth inning. It was her second home run of the game and third of the tournament, giving her 17 on the year.
A Bradley sacrifice fly later in the inning and an error by Mustang in the sixth inning pushed the lead to 4-1.
The Lady Broncos came back within a run in the botom of the sixth on a two-run scoring double by Cottrell.
In the opening game of the tournament, the Millerettes used the long ball to take control of the game, hitting four home runs in a 10-6 win over Norman North.
The Lady Timberwolves had taken the initial lead in the bottom of the first inning. Down 2-1, the Millerettes took their first lead in the top of the third on a three-run home run by Rayburn, 4-2.
Norman North came back and tied the game in the bottom half of the inning, but the YHS long ball gave the Millerettes the lead back. Bradley hit a two-run shot down the line and just fair inside the foul poll to make it a 6-4 game. Montgomery followed with a solo shot and a 7-4 lead.
Norman North didn’t quit and made it a 7-6 game in the fifth inning on a pair of RBI hits.
Bradley hit her second home run of the game in the sixth, another two-run shot just inside the foul pole to open a 9-6 lead and Montgomery scored on a passed ball for a 10-7 lead.
The Millerettes finished the season with a 20-13 record.