Special to the Grove Sun
OAKS-On their way to an enviable 19-3 season record, the Oaks Lady’s softball team barreled through their District Tournament with three straight wins Wednesday afternoon at Lady Warrior Field. And although the outcome was the same, the journey to their championship took a trio of diverse paths.
In the event’s opening game, the Watts mounted a late comeback only to fall short of Welch, forcing the Lady Engineers to tangle with Oaks in the next game of the day.
In the top of the first, Watts parlayed a pair of doubles, a sacrifice and two Warrior errors to score three runs.
But Oaks came right back when Malaurie Blackfox turned the first of nine Lady Engineer errors into a run when the defense mishandled the throw in after a dropped fly ball. While Watts was mishandling the toss, the speedy senior raced around the bases to score. Ali Choate followed with a double and pulled her team within one, when Shayla Barnett banged an RBI single.
After a scoreless second, the visitors used an infield hit and a pair of Warrior errors to double their lead. After tying things up in the fourth, some more shaky Oaks defense allowed another pair of Lady Engineer runs in the fifth.
But the Lady Warriors exploded in the home half. Sending 11 batters to the dish, Oaks scored seven runs on seven hits, to go with three Watts errors. Along the way , Chynna Cooper, Lauri Osburn and Rachel Hardin scored their second runs of the game, while Barnett picked up her second RBI. The Lady Engineers were never able to recover and managed to pick up only a solo tally in the seventh, to fall 13-7. In addition to scoring twice, Osburn went four-for-four in the contest.
With Watts eliminated from the post season, it was now up to the Welch Lady Wildcats and Oaks to determine the title, with a best two out of three. Playing much better defense, the Lady Warriors held their guest scoreless for the first four innings. But after being blanked during their first pair of at bats, the Oaks offense kicked back into gear, in the bottom of the third. Picking up five runs on seven hits, seniors Cooper and Blackfox picked up a run and an RBI each. Fellow senior Barnett knocked them both in with a double. Francis Millspaugh traded places with Barnett when she lashed her second RBI extra base hit of the game.
Following a scoreless fourth, Welch’s Brittany Warner picked up a one-out single and advanced to second on the Lady Warriors’ only error of the game. Kristen Marlow put runners on the corners with a two-out single and Lexis Mercer scored them both with a double to the centerfield fence. Oaks’s pitcher, Haley Keys got the next batter to ground out to Blackfox, to limit the damage to just two runs. After getting the Lady Wildcats down in order in the sixth, starting pitcher Keys and her defense held their opponents to only a Riley Chenoweth single in the seventh to hold on for the 5-2 win.
As a result of a pre-game coin toss, Welch was declared the home team and the Lady Warriors batted first. Following a scoreless first inning , Oaks got on the scoreboard when a pair of Wildcat errors put two runners in scoring position. And Stephni Wilson whacked a double into the right field corner, to score them both for a 2-0 lead.
The Lady ‘Cats were unable to scored in the second and third, while Cooper added another run for Oaks as the result of leadoff walk and another Choate RBI single. In the top of the fourth a pair of errors on the Lady Warrior infield opened the gates for Welch, as Brittany Tipton, Katie Armstrong and Hanna Chenoweth connected and scored on back to back to back two-out hits, to tie things up at three each.
But Oaks stormed back in the top of the fifth, sending 11 batters to the box. Before the ’Cats could get three outs, Cooper and Millspaugh had both scored their second runs of the game to go with RBIs by Blackfox, Keys and Osburn. In the home half, trailing 8-3, the middle of the Welch lineup put three more on the scoreboard to pull within two. Things looked bleak for the Warriors when the first pair of Lady Wildcats reached base on infield errors, but Keys got some help from her outfield as they tracked down the next three long fly balls for a scoreless sixth. Oaks wasted a Barnett hit in the top of the seventh to set up Welch’s final at bat. With two down and the potential tying runs on base, Keys got the final batter to ground out to her third baseman for the win and the district title.