LITTLE AXE — They are back.
The Indians are back.
At 3 p.m. today, Little Axe meets Chelsea at the Hall of Fame Stadium complex in Oklahoma City. At stake is a third-straight fastpitch state championship for the Class 3A school that maintains a Norman address, but is the hub of a community all its own.
That’s why the bleachers will be full of the Indian faithful today and, everybody hopes, Friday and Saturday.
Of course, Washington, Sulphur, Sequoyah-Tahlequah, Kellyville, Valiant and Perry will have something to say about it, too.
The Indians (25-10), though, are ranked No. 1 and carry the top seed … even if it looked like they were dead in the water just a few days ago.
Led by a group of three seniors — pitcher Andee Frazier, catcher Reagan McDoulett and shortstop Sammy Leisinger, all of which have collegiate softball in front of them — the Indians are nonetheless a young team that includes a pair of freshmen and a sophomore among its starting nine. And just as it was time to begin the march toward another postseason, the Indians started losing.
Little Axe was 16-2 after topping Class 4A No. 5 Newcastle 3-1 on Aug. 30.
Then came two losses in three games to begin the OU tournament. Then, after rebounding with three straight wins, the Indians really began to slide, losing five straight to McLoud, Westmoore, Putnam City North, Dale and Moore.
Next, finally, after rain made Little Axe’s diamond unplayable day-after-day as a regional host site, the regional was moved 100 miles away to Beggs on Monday. Once there the Indians crushed Okemah 14-0 but fell to Meeker 1-0, pushing their state tourney dreams all but over the edge.
“I think there was some doubt wondering how we were going to bounce back from that loss,” McDoulett said, “knowing that we were going to have to play that team twice.”
Here’s what happened Tuesday.
First, Little Axe eliminated Okemah 10-0. Then, behind some great pitching from Frazier and some timely hitting, they topped Meeker 3-1 and 4-0.
They climbed the mountain.
“We grew up a lot,” said coach Mike Bread, a Norman High product who’s enjoyed a bunch of success down Highway 9. “You had to wonder if the kids could get it done, if they could actually pick up the slack. They’ve come together quite well here in the end.”
Though Little Axe has been atop the coaches poll almost the whole season, Frazier still believes the program had something to prove this season.
“A lot of people didn’t expect us to make it this far. They knew we were losing two great players [Amanda Edmundson and Megan Blevins, who have both moved on to the college game], so (they were thinking) ‘Their bats are not going to be there and they’re not going to play as great defense.’
“Showing that we made it back is really cool.”
Frazier and her battery mate, McDoulett, get lots of credit. They’ve been a team longer than they’ve been wearing Little Axe jerseys. Since putting on Little Axe jerseys, Frazier has an 89-13 record in the circle. This season, she has struck out 321 in 205 innings.
Leisinger, a lead-off hitter with the power to go deep, has helped set the table this season by hitting .480.
Now, it’s just a matter of continuing the climb. The Indians are young, but most of their roster was there last season when Little Axe wouldn’t be denied, beating Morris 5-3 in the state title game.
They know what it’s about.
Also, representing a tight-knit community, they know they’ll have help.
“Just knowing that everybody believes that you’re going to make it, and our whole community’s behind us,” she said. “Unlike most communities , where it’s just some here, some there, our whole community’s supporting us. I think we have the most fans at every game.”
It’s a unique experience.
“It’s knowing that when you go to the store, or when you’re walking down the hallway, everybody knows who you are, everybody knows your record, everybody knows how the game went last night,” McDoulett said. “Everybody knows how it is and it affects everybody, and you can feel the excitement when you win and you can feel the disappointment when you lose.”
For two straight seasons, on the game’s biggest stage, the Indians have only yielded excitement.
Here they go again.
Clay HorningFollow me @email@example.com