Douglas High softball will be playing for the Class 5A state title Saturday, starting at noon at Hixson Park.
The Tigers left 10 runners on base in the first four innings against Reed in the state semifinals before breaking it open in the fifth.
By the end Douglas had bested Reed 11-4, marking the team’s 24th consecutive win.
In the following consolation final matchup, Centennial knocked Reed out of the state tournament by a 4-1 final, setting up the Tigers against the Bulldogs for Saturday’s title game.
Getting back to the state finals an accomplishment the Tigers have been striving for all year.
“It’s just incredible. I’m so excited and I’m really glad I get the chance to be here again,” said Douglas starting pitcher Mackenzie Willis.
Douglas is one win away from the state title. Centennial will need to win twice in order to capture the state title, due to the double elimination format of the tournament.
Trailing 3-2, the Tigers found a way to drive in base runners they had been leaving on in the early innings.
Bre Williams led off the inning with a walk and Cam McClelland drove her in with a triple to right field.
Haley Wilkinson, who was 2-for-5 out of the leadoff spot, singled in McClelland and Ava Delaney doubled in Wilkinson in the next at-bat.
Delaney’s RBI gave Douglas a 5-3 lead and the Tigers weren’t done.
After an intentional walk to Talia Tretton and back-to-back singles from Zora Simpson and Dakota Till, Williams came back to the dish with the bases juiced.
On a full count, Williams lined a doubled into the left-center field gap, clearing the bases and giving Douglas a 9-3 lead.
Williams ended the day 2-for-2 with three RBIs and two walks.
“I think it was just sticking with what we’ve been doing all season,” said Till. “If someone isn’t doing good, someone else will always come in and get a big hit.”
In the sixth, Wilkinson added two more runs with a two-run homer that cleared the center field wall.
Tretton knocked in the Tigers’ first run with a solo home run to center.
All-in-all, Douglas tallied 14 hits and every single member of the lineup recorded at least one base knock.
(Douglas HIgh left fielder Annie Hill reaches up to make a catch, during Douglas softball's 11-4 win over Reed Friday in the Class 5A state semifinals. Hill was 1-for-4 at the plate for the Tigers. / Ron Harpin)
Momentarily falling behind
Reed’s Karolyn Glover gave the Raiders that 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth before the Tigers broke it open.
The Raider catcher homered inside of the left field foul pole, but it didn’t fluster Willis, who bounced back with a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning.
“I think it’s a matter of refocusing. It’s in the past and you can’t do anything about it,” said Willis on her mentality after a home run.
To that point, Willis had allowed one run, which came in the fourth on a single back up the middle with two outs.
The senior hurler ended the game with 10 strikeouts.
Willis admitted that there’s always a little nervousness when playing from behind.
“Yeah, a little bit. Anything can happen in this game,” said Willis. “I never lost confidence in my team. We were right there the whole time.”
The pieces for a breakout had been there as Douglas had loaded the bases in the third and the fourth.
In the fifth, the Tigers picked her up quickly with the seven-run inning.
Prior to knowing their state title opponent, Till said it wasn’t a concern and Douglas needs to focus inward.
“We know they are all good teams. We shouldn’t care who is out on the field with us. We go and play the ball that Douglas plays.”
(Mackenzie Willis delivers a pitch against Reed Friday in the Class 5A softball state semifinals. Willis recorded 10 strikeouts and got the win as the Tigers advanced to their second consecutive state championship. / Ron Harpin)