OKLAHOMA CITY — Chelsea’s state championship hopes were crushed Thursday when the fifth-ranked Newcastle Lady Racers ousted the fourth-ranked Lady Dragons, 3-1, in the opening round of the Class 3A high school fastpitch softball state tournament at Hall of Fame Stadium.
Newcastle avenged a 3-0 loss to Chelsea last month.
“I knew it was going to be a battle,” Chelsea coach Daryl Ping said Thursday. “There is no blame, but if we get a pitch here and there, we win the game. That is just how softball is played. It hurts right now. Everyone had high expectations, and they feel like they didn’t meet them, but I told them everyone is proud of them, regardless.”
For the Lady Dragons, it was their second straight trip to the state tournament. They reached the semifinals last year before falling to eventual champion Henryetta. The experience is something the Lady Dragons believed would help them reach Saturday’s championship game.
“I thought we had a great chance to be in that final game, but I told them all week that once you get to this point, anything can happen,” Ping said. “We just didn’t get the break we needed and that is what it came down to.”
Chelsea took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when senior third baseman Ashley Dicks tripled home Sierra McSpadden.
Newcastle, though, came back with runs in the fourth and fifth innings to close the door on the Lady Dragons.
Junior standout Kasha Kolb allowed her first home run of the season when Cassidy Bridges hit a two-run shot in the fourth for a 2-1 lead.
Kolb finished with nine strikeouts, just four shy of the single season state record of 568, and gave up just two hits.
Kolb finished the season with a national record 11 perfect games. She also pitched 16 no-hitters, struck out 564 batters, and posted 37 wins.
“Kasha is a special kid,” Ping said. “She is one of those elite pitchers and I am blessed to have her on my team. When you have that in the circle every game, it’s pretty special.”
Dicks and left fielder Sara Roberts are the lone seniors to be replaced in 2007.
“Those kids have been in the program since the seventh grade,” Ping said. “They have always been around me. I’ll miss them, and I’m going to have a hard time trying to replace them.”
Despite an early exit from the state tournament, Chelsea had a fine season. The Lady Dragons were 37-5, won regular-season tournaments at Dewey and Sperry, hoisted its first-ever Will Rogers Conference championship, and captured district and regional titles for the second consecutive season.
With seven starters returning, Chelsea is likely to be knocking on the door again a year from now.
“They had a lot of fun and said they really enjoyed playing softball,” Ping said. “That is really encouraging, and I know next year they are going to be on a mission. They want to finish some business they didn’t complete, and their No. 1 goal is to make sure they play in that final game for the gold ball.”
The Lady Racers, 26-19, will play top-ranked Henryetta Friday. Henryetta defeated Bridge Creek, 3-0. Henryetta’s Natalie Rose pitched a no-hitter and struck out 14.
Adair defeatedHeavener, 7-3, as Alex Peters scattered three hits and Meagan Fraley homered.
Bethel stopped Prague, 1-0, to advance against Adair.
3A state tournament
NEWCASTLE 3, CHELSEA 1
Chelsea 010 000 0 — 1 5 1
Newcastle 000 210 x — 3 2 0
Kolb and Winters. Neesha and Dennis. W — Neesha. L — Kolb (37-5). HR — Newcastle, Bridges.
ADAIR 7, HEAVENER 3
Adair 500 100 1 — 7 12 1
Heavener 000 001 2 — 3 3 0
A. Peters and Harrison. Pickle and Tiffee. W — A.Peters (28-1). L — Pickle (32-10). HR, Adair, Fraley.