Richard Stroud

Grove Sun

OKLAHOMA CITY- After avenging a regular season loss to the Lawton MacArthur Lady Highlanders in their opening round game at the Class 5A state softball tournament on Thursday, the Grove Lady Red could not overcome a three-run home run by McAlester's McKenzie McClendon in the second round, falling into the loser's bracket with a 4-2 loss to the Lady Buffs at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

The Lady Red took the early lead against McAlester, as Ashleigh Tramel and Taylor Dodson hit back-to-back one out doubles in the first inning to score the game's first run.

Grove doubled its lead in the fourth. Starting pitcher Jessica Walker led off the inning with a single and was sacrificed to second by Shae Scott. Then with two outs Megan Freeman slapped a base hit down the right field line to make the score 2-0.

But the Lady Buffs would begin their comeback in the top of the fifth inning. After back-to-back walks to open the inning, a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt scored McAlester's Kortnie Morley. Rachel Bernhardt then hit a scorching line drive straight at Scott in centerfield for the second out before a ground out to second base ended the inning.

An error and a walk would put two McAlester baserunners on with two outs in the sixth inning before McClendon, batting in the eight spot, hit a liner to centerfield that just cleared the fence for a three-run home run.

The Lady Red could not score in the fifth and sixth innings despite getting two runs on base in both frames.

"It's disappointing," Grove head coach Jeremy Collins said. "I thought we played well. [McAlester] just made plays. [McClendon] just stepped up and got a big hit for them."

The Lady Red began their day with a measure of revenge. Having loss in extra innings to the second-ranked Lady Highlanders of Lawton Mac in the Hall of Fame Festival at this same location earlier in the year, the Lady Red jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.

Freshman shortstop Mason Jeffries showed no rookie nerves in her first-ever plate appearance in the state tournament, blasting a two-run home run in the bottom of the first for a quick 2-0 lead.

Dodson would add to the lead with a solo shot into left centerfield in the third inning.

That would be all the run support Walker would need. Dealing with a tight strike zone, Walker continually wriggled out of trouble. Her most serious situation occured in the second inning. After a double by MacArthur pitcher Lauren Renneker and a walk to Tiffany Freeman, the Lady Highlanders had two runners on and no outs.

But pinch runner Michelle Orange was thrown out at third by senior catcher Katie Stout while trying to advance on a passed ball. After a dropped fly ball in the outfield again put runners on first and second, Stout came through again, throwing out Freeman at third on an attempted steal. Walker would then strike out Courtney Ledford, one of six strikeouts recorded by Walker in the game, to end the inning.

Walker would add Grove's fourth run in the sixth inning, hitting a bases loaded single to score Kaitlin Threet for a 4-0 lead.

Walker would then find herself in trouble again in the final inning, after a single and two walks loaded the bases.

But Tramel would come through for the Lady Red, catching a line drive and quickly throwing to second for the game-ending double play.

With the loss to the Lady Buffaloes in round two the Lady Red will have to again defeat the Lady Highlanders in an elimination game at noon today. With a win Grove will advance to the semifinals, where they will have to defeat McAlester twice to advance to Saturday's championship game.