OKLAHOMA CITY - Ringling started its season with a pair of losses.
Commerce would love to end the top-ranked Lady Devils' season Thursday in the first round of the Class 2A state softball tournament.
“Anything can happen when you get to the state tournament,” Commerce coach Jerry Myers said. “If you beat the No. 1 team, that changes the whole scenario.
“We have nothing to lose. It's the 8 seed against the No. 1 seed. We've just got to go play relaxed. The pressure is going to be on them.”
The Lady Tigers, making their first appearance in the state tournament since 2001, squares off against Ringling - a team making its fourth straight trip - in a 6:45 p.m. contest on Field 3 at the Amateur Softball Association's Hall of Fame Stadium complex located on the west side of Oklahoma City.
“The last two or three weeks, we've been pretty consistent,” Myers said. “We've stepped it up offensively to where its not just two or three girls having to get it done.”
The Lady Tigers punched their ticket to OKC with a wild 5-4 victory over Wyandotte.
The Lady Bears had gone up 4-2 in the top of the seventh on a two-run homer by Kirsten Leppla.
However, Commerce came back in its half of the inning. Freshman Maycee North drilled a leadoff double and Jacey Knight stroked an RBI single. Kourtney Reading followed with a walk, then catcher Mandy Watson singled up the middle to give the Lady Tigers the win.
In addition to the 2001 appearance, the Lady Tigers were state champs in 1993 and runners-up in 1998.
Their first-ever appearance came in 1992, when they were eliminated in the first round.
“I know Commerce has a good team,” said Pybas, who still was trying to put together a solid scouting report Tuesday afternoon. “We've gotta go play - we can't just show up,” he said. “Everybody's record is the same. It doesn't matter what you've done up to this point, you have to go play. We will have to play well to beat Commerce.”
Other first-round games Thursday include Stroud vs. Healdton at noon, Mangum vs. Rush Springs at 1:45 p.m., and Colbert vs. Latta at 3:15 p.m.
The Colbert-Latta winner meets the Stroud-Healdton winner at noon on Friday, followed by the Ringling-Commerce and Mangum-Rush Springs survivors at 2 p.m.
The championship game will be Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Lady Devils (31-2) lost to Harrah and Bristow in the Tuttle Tournament back in August.
“Those were two quality teams,” Ringling coach Steve Pybas said, noting that Harrah has qualified for the 4A state tournament.
Harrah beat Bristow 8-6 in nine innings in a regional final last Friday.
“We just try to manufacture runs,” Pybas said. “We don't have any big boppers. We are scrappy. When we get runners on, we might bunt or do what we can. We have a couple girls with two, three or 4 home runs, but not like some of the teams you will see that can mash it. We just try to put the ball in play.”
The Lady Devils start four seniors - pitcher Hope McLemore, first baseman Macey Mercer, third baseman Mary Jane Farris and left fielder Macy Stewart - as well as four juniors and a sophomore.
Pybas said the keys to success have been good team speed, good defense and good pitching.
“She (McLemore) is pretty good,” he said. “She has good velocity and has a lot of different pitches.”
“We can't show them the speed she has,” Myers said. “We haven't seen that type speed. We've seen Kolb (former Chelsea fireballer Kasha Kolb) the last couple of years. They say she is comparable to her, just a notch or two below.”
Myers said McLemore has issued only eight walks all season.
“Those 2-0 and 3-1 counts aren't ‘let's take because she's probably going to walk us,”' Myers said. “That may be the best pitch we will see, so we have to be aggressive and attack.”
Ringling beat host Luther 5-1 in their regional final. Along the way, the Lady Devils beat Luther 6-0 in the first round and Hominy in the winner's bracket final.
“From one day to the next, it seems a different girl steps up,” Pybas said. “It seems each game somebody else will step up and take the lead, which is good. I think that's why we've been so successful. A team can't try to stop just one or two girls.
“I have confidence when they are at the plate, if I call for a bunt or if we need a sac fly or need a ground ball behind the runners to move them up, they can do it. That's what has led to our successful - they are a very unselfish bunch.”