Look at the scoreboard at McCombs Field on Thursday and it wasn’t your typical box score.
Decatur recorded 11 more hits than Anna, but due to six errors, it was the Coyotes that continued their dream season with a 6-4 victory in a 4A state semifinal game.
Anna (25-8-1) advances to its first state title game, noon Saturday, to play Huffman Hargrave.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. We made it all the way to the state championship, the final game. It doesn’t seem real,” said pitcher Hannah Howell, Anna’s lone senior.
Decatur (29-6), playing at state for the first time since 2002, loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning when its best batter Jordyn Smith came to the plate. Smith led the team with a .562 batting average.
“She’s a stud,” Howell said. “I just had to have the mindset of playing my game. We came together before she came up, took a deep breath and told ourselves to just play our game and make the routine play. It was good moment to share with my teammates.”
Howell threw two straight strikes, looking, a ball and finished it off with a swinging strikeout for her fifth of the game.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said sophomore Madison Gaston.
The Coyotes, which finished second in District 11-4A, took an early advantage in the second inning. junior Hannah Morland drilled a pitch to deep right field for a two-run triple. An errant throw to third allowed Morland to score and give Anna a 3-0 lead.
“I was just looking forward to get a base hit and drive those runs in,” Morland said. “It’s crazy, we went from 2-8 in district last year to playing the state championship game. We’ve worked so hard for this moment.”
But the Eagles tied it in the bottom of the third. Lilly Hooks singled and reached third on a double from Smith. Hooks scored on a passed ball and Brison Hesteande’s RBI single to shallow center drove in Smith.
Payton Perkins tied the game at 3 with an RBI single to right. Decatur added one in the fourth to grab a 4-3 lead when Hesteande drove in her second RBI. She finished 3 for 4.
The lead didn’t last long as Anna got three a half inning later to go up by two runs. Gaston hit a hard grounder to left to score a run before Kallie Harris was nearly picked off at second, but Decatur’s fifth error rolled to the warning track in center with no defender covering. Harris and Gatson scored to give Anna the lead for good.
“Little League home run,” laughed Gatson. “Saw the ball go into center and I knew I was going to score and I wasn’t stopping.”
“My teammates and coaches really picked me up,” added Howell, who is signed with Northwestern Oklahoma State. “They say the right things and encourage me. I knew we’d get back on top.”
Anna, which walked off in a one game regional final against Paris North Lamar, is a win away from clinching the school’s first team sport state championship since 1968.
“Hannah threw really well and that strikeout was a big moment for her. There were a lot of highs and lows today, but biggest thing for us was we took advantage of the little things. We’ve preached all year about taking the extra base and we wanted to put the pressure on them,” Anna coach Lindsey Gage said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s been an adventure. I’m so proud of my girls for never giving up.”