Junior belts 4 home runs as Okarche upsets Ringwood twice to win softball district
Maybe pitching around Madison Nance wasn’t such a good idea after all.
Karsyn Vallerand blasted three grand slams and another two-run home run Monday in back-to-back wins over top-seeded Ringwood to help lift Okarche to a Class 2A slowpitch softball district title.
The Lady Warriors dropped their opening game of the district, but won four straight elimination games to advance to a regional for the first time since 2017.
They play No. 2 Shattuck in the first game of the four-game regional at 1 p.m. Thursday. Two teams advance from the regional, which also includes Vici and Canute, to the state tournament.
Ringwood sat in the driver’s seat as it needed to only win once Monday to advance to the regional.
The Red Devils also had a clear game plan: Don’t pitch to Nance.
The freshman already had two home runs on the day and when she came up to the plate in the first inning with two Lady Warriors on base, Ringwood opted to load the bases rather than pitch to her.
Mistake. Vallerand sent one of the first offerings she saw over
Mistake. the fence for a grand slam and an early 4-0 lead.
The scenario repeated itself in Nance’s and Vallerand’s next at-bat.
Walk to load the bases. Grand slam.
Okarche built up a 9-2 lead before falling behind 10-9, but it soon built an insurmountable lead en route to the 18-15 victory.
That set up the “if” game to declare the district champ.
And Ringwood didn’t change strategies.
The Red Devils twice intentionally walked Nance and Vallerand added yet another grand slam and two-run shot as part of the 18-7 run-rule victory.
Not that Ringwood didn’t have good reason to be wary of Nance.
The freshman belted a pair of home runs in Okarche’s 9-6 win over Oklahoma Bible Academy in an elimination game earlier Monday.
Then, after getting burned twice by pitching around her, Ringwood opted to pitch to her in her final two at-bats of their first game.
Both were sent over the wall.
Nance didn’t see a pitch in the decisive game.
Okarche’s regional appearance didn’t appear to be much of a possibility last Thursday.
The Lady Warriors struggled at the plate and were ultimately upset 9-8 by OBA in extra innings.
“I don’t know if it was the pressure of the playoffs, but I felt the girls were pressing at the plate,” coach Brandon Treece said. “They were too hyped up and trying to make the big play.”
Okarche led 8-4 after a four-run top of the eighth inning, but three Lady Warrior errors with two outs allowed OBA to earn the come-from-behind win.
“We hadn’t played like that all year,” Treece said.
Facing elimination, Okarche answered with a 13-2 win over Drummond before weather delayed the tournament until Monday.
The Lady Warriors got down 5-0 against OBA before mounting the comeback that included Nance’s two homers.
Of course, it wasn’t just the Nance and Vallerand show.
Leadoff batter Hayley Coffey was a tough out all day.
She went a combined 9 for 11 in the three games and scored seven runs.
“She was always on base for us and helped us set up a lot of big innings,” Treece said.
In the first win over Ringwood, Emma Stover went 4 for 5 and also hit a home run.
Addy Arms got in on the grand slam fun as she hammered one in the decisive win.
The wins against Ringwood were just the second and third against a ranked team for Okarche (16-6) this season. The other was against 4A No. 20 Fairview.
“I felt those games were the first time in a couple of years where we haven’t looked at someone ranked and felt a little intimidated,” Treece said.
“We came out as the aggressor and took it to them early both games. I’m really proud of them.”