SHAWNEE — A three-run rally in the top of the third saw Blanchard beat Tecumseh in a 4A state quarterfinal game on Thursday.
The Lions got through to the semifinals off some expert pitching from Ashli Hafford, who recorded 11 strikeouts and kept 16 consecutive runners from reaching first to keep Blanchard in the ascendency.
“One thing could have changed the whole game, but with us playing as a team it made a big difference,” Hafford said.
At first it appeared Blanchard might have a tough task ahead. Tecumseh freshman Caitlin Bingham smashed one to deep left center for a home run that put the Lady Savages up 1-0.
“I couldn’t give up, and I had to push harder. It wasn’t just for me; it was for my team,” Hafford said.
Blanchard tried to answer in the top of the second, but a strikeout by Jordan Detherage ended the inning and left a runner stranded.
The third inning is what did it for the Lions, and it all began when Sha Ingram reached first on a bunt. She was brought across for the tying run off a single from Hafford. Pinch runner Olivia Boggs came across later to give Blanchard the lead, and a single from Cheyenne Powell completed the rally.
“We’re not a favorite anywhere, no one is expecting us to win anything,” Blanchard coach Joe Miller said. “We’ve made state four of the last five years, but no one has given us much credit for getting through any round, let alone the last one. They play with all of their heart and play for each other.”
The difficult task of regaining the lead then went to Tecumseh, but behind Hafford the Lions tightened up. Tidy fielding and a slew of strikeouts saw Blanchard out. A double by Aspen Grimes in the bottom of the seventh put the tying run on second, but the Lions held firm.
Blanchard will now face either Hilldale or Oologah-Talala in a semifinal on Friday at noon.