PRYOR- On the same day that regional assignments were announced by the OSSAA, the Grove Lady Red and the Pryor Tigerettes, ranked fifth and sixth in 5A respectively, played the kind of low-scoring pitchers' dual usually seen at the state tournament.
In the end it was Grove's Jessica Walker who outlasted Pryor's Haley Hughes as the Lady Red took advantage of several Tigerette miscues in a big sixth inning that led to a 4-0 victory.
"It's fun when you play good people and you have to perform," Grove head coach Jeremy Collins said afterward. "We didn't come up with a two-run home run like we have in the past. We just put the ball in play. They made a mistake and we took advantage of it."
That mistake was a throwing error in the top of the sixth on a grounder by Ashleigh Tramel. With Katie Stout already on first with a lead off walk, Tramel hit a grounder to third base. A throw to get Stout at second base went offline, rolling to the centerfield wall and allowing Stout to score the first run of the game.
Taylor Dodson followed with a bloop single just over second base to score Tramel and make it 2-0.
Pryor then suffered another defensive lapse when Mason Jeffries pop up in front of home plate fell between several infielders for another base hit.
Walker then laced a double off the left centerfield wall for a two-run double. It looked as if the Lady Red were on their way to even bigger things when Andrea Gonzalez laid down a bunt and appeared to reach first safely. But the home plate umpire called Gonzalez out for being out of the batter's box on the bunt. Two subsequent fly outs ended the inning.
"[Gonzalez] had a great bunt I thought," Collins said. "I think if we got that down things would've kept rolling our way and maybe we could've gotten a few more runs right there."
But four runs would be all Walker would need. Just two weeks after setting a career high with 17 strikeouts against Locust Grove on Senior Night, Walker went one better, striking out 18 Tigerettes while allowing just two hits and two walks.
"She pitched phenomenal tonight," Collins said. "I thought she just dominated them. That's a team that's been ranked in the top-five all season long. She did a great job tonight."
Walker's only trouble on the night came in the bottom of the sixth inning. With two outs, back-to-back singles followed by a walk loaded the bases. But Walker, who during one stretch from the first to third innings struck out seven batters in a row, used yet another strikeout to get out of the jam and preserve the win.
The win came on the same day that regional assignments were released with both Pryor and Grove announced as host sites. In all there are eight sites across the state, with four on the east and four on the west. In the east the other two regional sites are Tahlequah and McAlester. All four host teams will be heavy favorites to advance to state, making Tuesday's game a possible preview of a state tournament matchup.
"It could be," Collins said. "There's a very good chance of it. We're hosting a regional and hopefully that's good news for us and we can make it through."
The other three teams in Grove's regional tournament, which is likely to begin on Wednesday of next week, are Collinsville, Bishop Kelley and Will Rogers. A full preview of the tournament will be in Tuesday's edition of the Grove Sun.