SHAWNEE — Blanchard pitcher Ashli Hafford gave up a first-inning, no-doubt home run to Tecumseh's Caitlin Bingham, then set about the rest of the game atoning for her mistake.
Hafford retired 16 straight batters, struck out 12, delivered the game-tying single during a three-run third inning for the Lions and wriggled out of a seventh-inning jam, lifting Blanchard to a 3-1 win on Thursday in the first round of the Class 4A state fast-pitch softball tournament at The Ball Fields at Firelake.
Blanchard (35-9), making its fourth state-tournament appearance in five years, will face Hilldale (33-5) in the semifinals on Friday, as the Hornets beat Oologah 5-1 in another first-round game. But it was a perilous-at-times journey for the Lions against Tecumseh (24-12).
“We're not a favorite anywhere,” Blanchard coach Larry Weaver said. “Nobody's given us, really, a chance to win this thing. … If I could describe this bunch, they play with all their heart. They play for each other.”
Blanchard loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first inning, only to come up empty after hitting into a double play. In the bottom of the inning, Hafford struck out Tecumseh's first two batters before Bingham unloaded on the first pitch she saw, sending it over the left-field fence.