NORMAN — Thursday night at Marita Hynes Field offered a terrific venue, a terrific rivalry, terrific atmosphere, terrific pitching and terrific defense.
Yet, while both sides were able to enjoy the first three of that quartet of goodies, only Norman North enjoyed the last, and that was the difference in the Timberwolves’ 3-1 victory.
The first Crosstown Clash of the school year, both pitchers — NHS’ Kylee Warrington and North’s Peyton Burton — offered no favors, combining on only two walks and no hit batsmen. And while the T-Wolves’ defenders were not quite perfect, they came up big when they had to, cutting off would-be Tiger rallies in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings.
“I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” first-year North fast-pitch coach Alysia Hamilton said. “It was going to come down to making plays.”
The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the second after hits from Warrington and Alexis Bell and a walk to Xandria Hoahwah.
Next up, Michaela Hardin smoked a hot shot at drawn-in North third baseman Des Hutchinson, who made the first of a bunch of strong plays, smothering the ball and throwing home for the second out. When Jayna Shaver softly lined out, the inning was done.
Next time around, Heather Jones led off NHS’ third inning with a triple, and would have been stranded if not for a hurried two-out throwing error from second baseman Maci Roundtree. Still, Burton limited the damage by getting Bell to pop out two batters later.
Hoahwah led off the Tiger fourth inning with a double, but was stranded after Burton retired the rest of true side in order.
After North took a 2-1 edge in the top of the fifth the Tigers had their last real chance when a single from Kiyana Hibbert put runners at the corners with nobody out.
Next up, Warrington laid down a should-have-been squeeze, but Hutchinson was on the ball so fast that Ciara Longman froze at third. Hutchinson repeated the trick after Morgan Epperson bunted, getting the ball home so quickly that Longman turned around and headed back to third. Catcher Michaela Smith’s throw to shortstop Kenzie Jones beat her there for the second out. When Burton got Bell to ground out, the inning was over.
“We brought intensity,” Hutchinson said.
North’s two fifth-inning runs, with some help from the Tigers, came on a bases-clearing bunt from Burton.
Maddie Morris reached on an infield single before Burton laid down the bunt. Fleck, charging from third base, fielded, but threw high and wide into foul territory alongside right field. When Hoahwah failed to pick the ball up cleanly, Burton headed home, beating a throw in the dirt.
North added an insurance run in the seventh when Jones doubled home Blakeleigh Carwile.
“I thought I did a pretty good job working my spots,” said Burton, who survived six hits and two errors to yield the single run. “I thought my defense was outstanding. They stuck with me the entire game.”
For the Tigers and first-year coach Andrea Harrison, it was a narrow loss with a lesson attached.
“I think it’s the butterflies and playing out here (on OU’s diamond),” she said, explaining some, but not all, of her squad’s glove woes. “But we have to work on our defense.”
NHS fell to 3-7. North pulled even at 5-5.
“I like the potential of these girls,” Hamilton said.
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