AMBER — The Amber-Pocasset Lady Panthers are going back to state.
Behind a strong defensive performance and one inning of scoring, the Lady Panthers clinched their fourth fast-pitch state tournament appearance in a row in Amber on Friday. They completed a 3-0 regional tournament with a 4-0 win over the Hartshorne Lady Miners.
“It was just awesome,” head coach Erick Muncy said after the victory.
During its regional run, Am-Po only allowed two runs and won its three games by a combined score of 21-2. The Lady Panthers defeated Texhoma-Goodwell once and Hartshorne twice to advance to the Class 2A state tournament.
Muncy talked about the importance of this season’s senior class, a group made up of five players. He calls the seniors “trailblazers.”
“I’m so proud of our five seniors,” he said. “They’ve made the path for all the younger kids and showed Amber-Pocasset kids and softball players that it can be done (and) set the framework for the future.”
The five seniors have now qualified for the fast-pitch state tournament every year at the high school level, winning a state championship in 2018 and advancing to the semifinals in two different classes the other two seasons before 2020. Am-Po’s senior class consists of Caton Muncy, Bailey Kite, Maddie Boswell, Cierra Shelton and Caleigh Jeffries.
Am-Po's four runs against Hartshorne came in the bottom half of the fourth inning.
Devynn Harris got the scoring started with an RBI double. Harris put together a 2-for-3 performance at the plate with the one RBI.
The biggest hit came off the bat of Jeffries. She had two hits in the game, and her two-run triple after the run-scoring hit from Harris gave the Lady Panthers some insurance. Addisyn Peterson then completed the scoring with a sacrifice fly.
Am-Po’s defense was too much for the Lady Miners and was led by Kite in the circle.
“Our defense was really good today,” Muncy said.
Kite pitched 14 innings against Hartshorne during the regional tournament and allowed just one run in those 14 innings.
“Bailey Kite did a really good job this regional,” Muncy said.
Peterson also earned a victory in the circle during the tournament, picking up the win in Am-Po’s first game of the tournament.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association released the bracket for the state tournament Monday. Am-Po will play Stroud at 11 a.m. at USA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
The Cyril Lady Pirates are also heading back to the state tournament, extending their streak of fast-pitch state tournament appearances. The Lady Pirates compete in Class B.
Cyril opened the postseason by getting past Verden in the district tournament. The Lady Pirates defeated Maysville once and Pittsburg twice during the regional tournament, going 3-0 to advance to state.
The Lady Pirates will play Kiowa at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Shawnee.
The OSSAA is requiring masks and social distancing at both locations due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.