By Michael Kinney
The Mustang softball team headed to the state tournament with high hopes. After going undefeated in their district and riding an 11 game win streak, MHS seemed to be peaking at the right time.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, they ran into a squad that was just as hot and with a lot more experience as they took on defending champion Edmond Memorial in the opening round of the Class 6A State Fastpitch Tournament. The fifth-ranked Bulldogs prevailed 10-7 at the Firelake BallFields in Shawnee.
“I felt like we played okay,” MHS coach Lacy Darity said. “Definitely not our best.”
The loss ends Mustang’s season with a 23-7 record. However, the Broncos didn’t go down easy.
After trailing Memorial 3-0 they started to make a move in the bottom of the third inning. With runners on second and third, senior Arionna McElroy smacks comes up with an RBI single to get MHS on the board.
After Edmond walked Eden Anderson, Reese Poage came to the plate with the bases loaded and a chance to put a serious dent on the Bulldog’s lead. Poage tied the game with a 2-RBI single to left field.
In the fifth inning, Poage and Lexi Kierstead get on base before Kenzie Sessions comes up with an RBI single to put Mustang ahead for the first time in the game at 4-3.
“Once we got down I told our girls that three runs was nothing for our hitters,” Darity said. “We were patient and started looking for one pitch, and I felt like that helped us draw some walks and get some clutch base hits.”
The Bulldogs stormed back and retook the lead at 8-4 in the sixth inning. Darity brought in Aubree Hall in relief. She was able to get the final two outs to end Edmond’s big inning.
Mustang needed to answer back in the bottom of the sixth to keep their hopes alive. Emerson Pegram and Shaye Rose earned walks before Anderson came to the plate and belted a 3-run homer.
The Broncos trailed 8-7 heading into the seventh inning. But that was where the Bulldogs put the contest away when they scored two runs on a passed ball at home.
Mustang was unable to muster any offense in the bottom of the seventh and Edmond walked away with the victory.
“We gave up way too many extra base hits and allowed too many free baserunners via walks and errors,” said Darity. “Edmond Memorial was the best offense we have faced all season. They didn’t really have any holes in their lineup. We knew they’d be tough to defend. They swung the bat really well.”
The Bulldogs went on to play Southmoore for the 6A title. The SaberCats earned the 2-1 victory to claim their third championship in the last four years.
Mustang ended their season with a 23-7 record. While they came up short of their ultimate goal, Darity said the team had an impressive campaign.
“Overall, we had a good season,” Darity said. “We went undefeated in district play, which is something I’m not sure any recent Mustang team has done. Back-to-back district championships. It didn’t end how we wanted, but it was a good season.”
Now the Broncos will have to replace a group seniors who have helped turn the program into one of the best in the state on a consistent basis. They include Shaye Rowe, Fay Cornish, Shelby Bolden,
Rylee Hannon, Kenzie Sessions, Emerson Pegram, Eden Anderson and Arionna McElroy.
“These seniors have meant everything to this program,” Darity said. “Most of them have been a part of our varsity team for four years now, so it’s been fun to watch them grow and develop into really good softball players and even better people over the last four years. We lose a lot of leadership with this group, one of the best groups I’ve been around in that respect. They leave really big shoes to fill.”