Claremore senior second baseman Stephanie Schivally thrives under pressure.
With two outs and the count 2-2, Schivally delivered the biggest hit of her senior year — a game-winning single in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Schivally’s clutch single allowed Claremore senior center fielder Madison Bright to score from second base and sparked the Lady Zebras to a 4-3 win over Tahlequah Thursday afternoon.
The win guaranteed the Lady Zebras the District 5A-3 championship and the opportunity to host the Class 5A Regionals in two weeks.
“I couldn’t be more proud for this team and the way they never gave up after being down 3-0 in the first inning,” Claremore head coach Jim Sherl. “Their goal coming into the season was to win district and host regionals. These girls accomplished that with an all-around team effort.”
Trailing 3-2 going into the fourth inning, Erica Spencer led off with her second single of the game, and later scored the tying run on Bright’s double to center field to even the score at 3-3.
One batter later, Schivally put the Lady Zebras up for good at 4-3 on a shallow single to right-center field that allowed the ‘speedy’ Bright to score from second base.
Up until the fourth inning, Claremore had to play from behind as Tahlequah built a 3-0 in the top of the first inning.
Whitney Wright gave Tahlequah a 1-0 lead with one out in the first on a towering solo homer off Claremore starting pitcher Ally Johnson. Then, with two outs, Courtney Drye smashed a two-run homer over the right-center field fence to increase Tahlequah’s lead to 3-0.
Sherl said that when we talked to the team in the circle after Drye’s homer, their attitude was ‘we’re ready to go.’
“With this lineup, we have the ability to score runs and put pressure on opponents,” Sherl said. “That first inning tested our character.”
Claremore answered in the bottom of the first inning and cut Tahlequah’s lead to 3-1 on Sarah Brown’s RBI-single to center field that scored Bright from second base. Bright led off the first inning with a single to left field.
In the circle, Claremore’s Ally Johnson regained her confidence to shutout Tahlequah’s aggressive offense over the final six innings.
Claremore narrowed the gap to 3-2 in the bottom of the second inning on Bright’s infield single that scored Spencer from third base. Spencer highlighted the inning with a leadoff single to center field. Schivally also contributed with a two-out single to center field.
Relying on her change-up, Ally Johnson carried a 4-3 lead into the fifth inning. Facing Tahlequah’s top three hitters, who Sherl said may be the best in the state, Johnson and the Lady Zebras defense retired the side.
“After the fourth inning, I thought maybe we should change it up in the circle,” Sherl said. “But, Ally refused to come out of the game. She wanted the ball.”
Claremore’s Brown and Ally Johnson tallied back-to-back singles in the bottom of the fifth, but the Lady Zebras came up short to strand two runners on base.
Tahlequah put the tying run on base in the top of the sixth on a single to right field by Drye. One play later, on a throw down to first base from Claremore catcher Hailey Seago to Kaylee Bart, Drye got caught in a run-down as shortstop Sarah Brown took the relay from Bart and chased Drye back to first base before diving to make the second out.
Lindsey Wade popped out to Claremore sophomore right fielder Kenzie Johnson to end Tahlequah’s sixth-inning rally.
Schivally completed her 3-for-4 outing at the plate with Claremore’s lone single in the bottom of the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, Claremore’s Ally Johnson got two quick outs — via solid defense from freshman third baseman Erica Spencer.
After Marisa Girdner’s bunt single put Tahlequah runners on first and third base, Wright’s groundout to Brown completed the hard-fought district championship victory for the Lady Zebras.
“Anytime, you can hold Tahlequah’s offense to five runs in two games, that’s a huge lift for your defense, and Ally Johnson’s pitching in the circle,” Sherl said. “These seniors are the ‘heart’ of this team and tonight, they believed in each other and got a huge win.”
Ally Johnson tossed a complete game to earn the victory. She allowed three runs on six hits with four strikeouts.
Claremore (21-6 overall, 10-2 conference) will host Senior Night at 5 p.m. on Monday against East Central.