There’s no denying the ‘HEART’ of these Claremore Lady Zebras.
With their backs against the wall Thursday, these ‘diamond girls’ proved be the last team standing and hoisting a trophy after six exhilarating hours and three wins later.
“I’ve never seen a team want something as bad as they did today,” Claremore Lady Zebra head coach Jim Sherl said. “After we got those first two wins, you could tell this group of seniors and their teammates weren’t going to be denied in that final game.”
Pitch-for-pitch, Claremore seniors Kaylee Bart and Ally Johnson combined to gut it out in the circle.
Though their arms may have been showing fatigue after two straight games, it was obvious they weren’t going down without a fight.
After Claremore senior pitcher Stephanie Schivally kicked off the regional tournament with a perfect game, no-hitter in a 22-0 win over Tulsa Memorial, Bart and Ally Johnson answered the challenge Thursday with 63 outs of gut-wrenching pitching in the circle. It was a combined effort that held McAlester’s explosive offense to two runs in 14 innings.
“Anytime you can hold McAlester’s lineup to just two runs, that’s saying something for your pitching staff,” Sherl said. “McAlester’s a great club with a great pitcher (Selmon) that also is a great hitter. All around, she’s their best player and we handled her well.”
The performance by the Lady Zebras, especially in their 11-2 win over District 5A-4 rival Skiatook to open the day Thursday, set the tone for back-to-back victories over McAlester.
Sherl said his Lady Zebras set a goal at the beginning of the season to go out and not only host a regional tournament but also win a championship — something that hasn’t been done since 2008.
Mission accomplished by 8 p.m. Thursday night.
Claremore got behind 2-0 in Game 6 against McAlester but never caved in under the pressure.
A lead-off single by Schivally in the bottom of the fourth, followed by a one-out single by senior shortstop Sarah Brown, set the stage for Ally Johnson’s 2-run single to center field that tied the game at 2-2.
“Patience at the plate and the big hit by Ally (Johnson) gave a chance to do something big in Game 6,” Sherl added.
The Lady Zebras kept chipping away at McAlester’s Cheyenne Selmon and won the game in the bottom of the sixth with junior catcher Hailey Seago driving in the go-ahead run on a infield hit that caromed off the glove of the McAlester shortstop to make it 3-2. Claremore’s insurance run — Brown crossing home plate — came on freshman third baseman Erica Spencer’s deep sacrifice flyball to right-center field that sealed the 4-2 win.
“All season long, this team hasn’t backed away from pressure,” Sherl said. “We proved that in the district championship game against Tahlequah, and then again tonight in a game we needed in order to stay alive.”
Sherl added that his team gets fired up for the big games.
“We’re at our best when we’re facing tough-caliber teams,” Sherl said. “I think this team has a chance to do something special this week in the state tournament.
“To know that we’re one of eight teams remaining in Class 5A, that says something about the heart of this team.”