The cool start that Deer Creek began with in the Class 5A state tournament on Thursday, turned into a momentum-building semifinal victory on Friday afternoon as the Lady Antlers topped Claremore 3-1 at the Firelake ball fields in Shawnee.
In head coach Erin Regier’s sixth season at Deer Creek, it is the first time the Antlers will enter into Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. championship with Carl Albert. The Lady Titans, 34-1, has their lone loss to Deer Creek on the season.
“We’re excited to be in the finals,” Regier said after Friday’s triumph. “The girls have worked hard and deserve this.”
The past three falls, Regier has led the Antlers into the state semifinals. Deer Creek now stands at 31-7.
Lady Antler hurler Emily Watson has been doing it all, producing on offense and in the circle, as for the second consecutive day cracked the game-winning hit. In the last of the sixth inning Friday, Watson smashed a two-run homer with Jordan Williams on board for the 3-1 final.
On the rubber, Watson struck out nine Claremore batters for her second successive 2-hitter.
Deer Creek shortstop Kelsi Williams made a great defensive play for the second out in the top of the seventh before Watson used the built-up tenacity to slam the door on Claremore for the third and final out, sending the Antlers into the state title contest.
Kelsi Williams also batted an untarnished 2-for-2 out of the nine-hole, including cracking a double.
Lady Antlers break silence; advance to semifinals (Thursday)
A beautiful, tranquil October day seemed to breed stillness into both Collinsville and Deer Creek, as the two Class 5A teams competed in the state tournament Thursday at the Firelake ball fields in Shawnee.
With only five hits in the entirety of the game, it took Lady Antler pitcher Watson’s two-run single in the bottom of the fifth inning to boost Deer Creek past Collinsville 3-2 in a tournament opener.
“I was trying not to think too much and I’m glad I got a hit,” said Watson, who was the winning pitcher upping her personal mark to 24-4 on the season.
Watson didn’t have time to ponder anything, as the University of Tulsa commit jumped on the first pitch with two out for a huge clutch single through the left hole plating both Bailey Thomspon, who had beat out a bunt single from the left side of the box and Jordan Williams, who was struck with a pitch.
The two runs batted in by Watson relieved tons of pressure on the Antlers as they garnered a 3-2 edge.
“Yes, very much so,” Watson attested as to how her nerves were calmed. She walked four hitters in the initial three innings but after her big two-run swat, Watson retired six of the next seven hitters without yielding a hit or a free pass, including slamming the door on the Lady Cardinals for a 1-2-3 seventh.
Watson ended the game with a two-hitter, limiting Collinsville to a 2-for-23 (.087) day at the plate with six strikeouts.
Deer Creek, now improving to 30-7, will play at noon Friday in the semifinals against Claremore, which blanked Duncan, 3-0. Powerful Carl Albert improved to 33-1 by pummelling Lawton MacArthur, 8-1.
“Hopefully so,” Deer Creek head coach Regier stated. “Maybe we can play a little more loose.
“I think we have confidence to play off of our seniors and go from there.”
Jordan Williams also scored Deer Creek’s first run when trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth. She led off the frame with a base on balls and came home with two out when a nervous Collinsville left fielder dropped Kennedy Turner’s high fly near the foul line.
In all, the Antlers mustered just three hits off of Cardinal pitching, batting .200 (3-for-15) as Watson and shortstop Kelsi Williams finished 1-for-3 and Thompson came in at 1-for-2. At short, Kelsi Williams made a big assist in the sixth up by just a run. With no outs and a runner at first, Williams had to hustle in toward the hole. She planted and flipped over to Lauren Coleman at second to record the out in time.
In the third, Deer Creek three-sacker Perri Cole rushed in on a nubber and made a strong throw to just get the runner. Also in the third, the catcher, Turner, fired a throw right in the bull’s-eye to Kelsi Williams to mow down a would-be base stealer at second.
The Lady Cardinals’ lone hits came from Makayla Bowman (1-for-2) and Marissa Huggins (1-for-2).