SHAWNEE — Tuttle’s postseason softball ride came to an abrupt end Friday afternoon in a 7-0 shutout loss to Bethel.
It was an uncharacteristic loss given Tuttle’s recent run of form that saw them easily through the regional round last week. The Lady Tigers only managed five hits off Bethel’s Kim Herron.
“I just think they tried to do too much instead of playing their game,” Tuttle head coach Jennifer Prince said. “They’ve never looked like that, that I remember. I definitely thought we should be playing on Saturday.”
The signs of a Bethel blowout came early, with leadoff hitter Kelsey Eropkin hitting a double off the first pitch from Bailee Saye. The sudden swing in momentum seemed to rattle Saye and the Lady Tigers, and Eropkin later reached home off a wild pitch to give Bethel the early lead.
“When you start out, you’ve got some nerves, and when that happened the nerves get a little worse. Usually if you can get through the first inning they’ll calm down,” Prince said. “I think that bothered her at first, but when you get here, that’s when you forget about that pitch and go onto the next one.”
Herron was in top form, making things difficult for the Tuttle batters who were unable to hit any gaps in the infield. Bethel then added another run in the top of the third inning, when Mikayla Whitten’s double brought in Bry Flanagan to double their lead.
Everything started going Bethel’s way in the fourth. With runners already on first and second, Shelby Miller’s bunt looked to have been fielded, but the umpire called her safe at first. This prompted a discussion from Prince, who was convinced the runner was out.
“Would that have made a difference if she would have been called out? I don’t know, obviously,” Prince said. “It didn’t help us, and she was clearly out. It just seemed like nothing went our way. We didn’t handle the controversies well.”
It quickly went from bad to worse. With the bases loaded, Flanagan smashed a double into the left-field corner to score three runs and put Bethel up 5-0. Prince then paid a visit to the mound, and decided to pull Saye and bring in the reliever Macy Spear.
“The way she was looking, the way she was feeling, when I went out there to talk to her, I decided Macy needs to go in,” Prince said.
Another double, this time by Whitten, brought Flanagan across, and another run later put the Lady Tigers in a huge 7-0 hole.
Despite signs of resurgence, Tuttle never was able to recover. Peyton Garrett’s double in the bottom of the fifth brought cheers from the Tuttle crowd, but a strikeout ended the inning and preserved the shutout. Later, Tuttle strung together a few singles and had the bases loaded in a last-gasp effort in the bottom of the seventh, but a third out meant the Lady Tigers went scoreless.
The win sets up a Friday battle between Bethel and either Cache or Ft. Gibson at 2 p.m. The winner goes on to the 4A State Final on Saturday.