Richard Stroud

Grove Sun

GROVE- After a big weekend at the Sand Springs Tournament, the Grove Lady Red returned home on Tuesday and swept two games from the Locust Grove Lady Pirates on Senior Night.

GHS got outstanding pitching performances from Jessie Walker, who struck out 17 batters in winning 4-1 in game one, while senior Gregorye Epperson pitched a perfect game in game two's 9-0 victory.

Walker gave up one run in the top of the first inning on what turned out to be Locust Grove's only hit in the two games. Unfortunately, the hit came after a pair of walks put runners on first and second with two outs, giving Locust Grove a 1-0 lead.

"Our pitching was really, really good tonight," Grove head coach Jeremy Collins said. "We had a couple of walks at the beginning that hurt us."

The Lady Red would bounce back in the bottom of the frame with two runs of their own. GHS used bunt singles by Ashleigh Tramel and Mason Jeffries as well as two Lady Pirate errors to score the runs.

Walker, meanwhile, remained in control, allowing just three more walks while striking out the side in the second, sixth and seventh innings.

Grove would get its other two runs of the game the fourth inning. After Andrea Gonzalez and Shae Scott reached base, an infield single by Kaitlin Threet and a double to centerfield by Tramel made the score 4-1.

Tramel and Jeffries both finished two-for-three to lead the Lady Red offensively.

GHS would have a much easier time in game two. After a ceremony between games to honor seniors Epperson, Threet, Scott and four-year starting catcher Katie Stout, the Lady Red got back to work, scoring three runs in the third inning.

Taylor Dodson began the rally by reaching base on an error with one out. After Dodson moved to third on a passed ball, Jeffries brought her home with an infield single for the first run of the game. Jeffries would later score on another passed ball, and Threet would drive in the third run of the frame with a sacrifice fly.

The Lady Red put the game to bed in the next inning. Epperson, Stout and Tramel all reached base to start the inning before Dodson hit a single to centerfield that scored two runs. Grove would go on to score six runs in the frame for a 9-0 lead.

And with Epperson not even allowing a base runner, the game ended after five innings due to the run rule.

"We are really good when things are going well," Collins said. "I think the second game showed that."

The pair of wins came on the heels of the team's strong showing at Sand Springs on Friday and Saturday, where the team won five of six games, with all the games but one coming against a ranked opponent from 5A or 6A. The weekend was highlighted by a win over the host Lady Sandites, who are currently ranked ninth in 6A. Walker struck out 49 batters in the four games she pitched in the tournament.

"That was a big, big win," Collins said. "We had a good weekend overall."

Tuesday's game also featured a recent lineup change for the Lady Red, with Jeffries moving from leadoff to cleanup, switching places with Stout.

"That was a move that [assistant] coach [Mandy] Jones suggested," Collins said. "And she was right. "Katie's batting over .400 and everything she hits is down. She's been getting a lot of base hits and her on-base percentage is really high. Mason [Jeffries] is the type of hitter that will sit back and wait to drive something. She was kind of struggling in the leadoff spot."

Of course with the torrential rains that drenched the area on Monday and finally ended on Tuesday morning, the fact that the Lady Red got to play at all was nearly miraculous.

"It took a lot of effort and a lot of people," Collins said. "Cindy Walker, Wendy Jeffries, Jack Stout, Mark Lovelace, there were a lot of people out here helping us. We got the shop-vac out and got the water off and then Brian Walker went to Arkansas and got some Diamond Dri for it. It's probably in better shape now than it has been in a long time. It needed the rain, just not that much.

"I don't think we could do this without the parents. Everything from concessions to getting the field ready. We get a lot of parental support here."

Now 17-6, the sixth-ranked Lady Red will be in action again this weekend when they travel to Oologah for another tournament.