By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Be it fast pitch or slow, the softball season can end so quickly. It only takes a day to play a regional and unless you come through it on top, you’re finished.
That’s been the story for Norman High and Norman North for a very long time. Unless one of them upsets its way into the Class 6A state tournament next week, it will be again.
On the other hand, though a certified long shot, perhaps North has a rare chance to advance. The Timberwolves made their case Tuesday night, convincingly taking the second chapter of slowpitch’s Crosstown Clash, dispatching Norman High 9-4.
“Slowpitch softball is a game of momentum, whether it’s hitting or getting wins,” North coach Beth Freihofer said. “And we won four games last week and we’re improving every day.”
A big part of the T-Wolves’ late-season story has been pitcher Morgan Wardlow, who will be tossing from the fast-pitch when she gets to college but who recently left her team manager position to toss lobs from the slowpitch circle. Her ability not to allow free base runners, solid defense behind her and timely hitting has been just the ticket for the T-Wolves.
Tuesday, it all came together for the North in the six-run third inning.
Jenna Duval led off with a double, followed by a hit from Abby Cooper that put runners at the corners. Hailey Swopes hit into a fielder’s choice out but knocked in Duval to make it 2-2. Then came singles from Katelyn Dollard and Maci Roundtree to load the bases for Kyla Lewis, who smacked a two-run double.
Wardlow followed with a run-scoring fielder’s choice in which everybody was safe, and after Des Hutchinson grounded into the inning’s second out, Kelsi Ruth followed with a two-run single that made it 7-2.
The Tigers made it 7-4 in the top of the fifth inning, getting a double from Heather Jones, a run-scoring triple from Ciara Longman and an RBI single from Becca Maeder. The T-Wolves came right back with RBIs from Hutchinson and Ruth in the bottom half to forge the final score.
Ruth, one of five seniors playing their final Crosstown Clash for North, finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs.
“It’s really big for us,” she said. “It’s pretty nice to be able to come back and show them how much we’ve improved … I think we’re gaining more confidence and our batting has gotten a lot better.”
NHS’ Kiyana Hibbert staked the Tigers to an early lead, smashing a two-run, into-the-wind home run in the first inning. But after North (7-15) erupted in the third, NHS (6-19) was never closer than two runs.
“We just have trouble stringing hits together,” Tiger coach Tim Gonzales said. “We haven’t been able to get that big hit.”
The T-Wolves did, more than once.
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