She had hit one home run in her life and it wasn’t this year as a freshman in high school, so when Yukon rookie A.J. Rayburn entered the batter’s box in the top of the eighth inning, her thought was just get on base and get something going.
Instead, Rayburn turned on an inside pitch and hundreds of screaming fans at the Firelake Softball Complex in Shawnee watched it sail over the left field wall to put the Millerettes up 3-2 over Broken Arrow in the opening round of the 6A state softball tournament.
“It felt great,” Rayburn said. “It was perfect timing. I had a feeling when I saw the pitch. I had to go get it. I was afraid it was going to go foul but it stayed in.”
Yukon took the one-run lead into the bottom half of the inning with a chance to send the Tigers home for good. It was the second-consecutive inning the Millerettes had that opportunity. Yukon led 2-1 going into the bottom of the seventh when BA made a furious rally with two outs to tie the game at 2.
Broken Arrow got runners on first and second with two outs and it was Bre Johnson, who had pitched a stellar game all night that came through with a full-count strike out against the Tiger hitter to end the game.
“They didn’t quit,” Yukon coach Katy Hoke said. “That team (Broken Arrow) was coming at them and they didn’t quit. They kept fighting and kept battling.”
Johnson finished the night pitching eight innings and allowing two earned runs on seven hits, while striking out six and walking four.
“Bre did a good job,” Hoke said. “She did a great job of leading us tonight. There were times we needed to calm down and she stepped up and made sure we were settled down and ready to go.”
Another big moment in the game came in the bottom of the sixth frame, when Broken Arrow had cut Yukon’s lead to 2-1 and was threatening to score more. A laser line-drive in the left center gap looked like it was headed to the wall and the Tigers would either tie or take the lead.
However, a diving catch from center fielder Brooklin Mathers ended the inning and brought the Millerette faithful to its feet with thunderous applause.
Yukon got the two-run lead in the first and fourth innings. After an Ashlyn Bruce double in the top of the first, Johnson grounded out to short stop but it was good enough to earn the RBI and give the Millerettes a 1-0 advantage.
Yukon held the 1-0 lead through the top of the fourth when Bruce did more damage. This time it was a solo home run over the right center wall to put the Millerettes up 2-0.
Yukon finished the game with seven hits and three RBIs. Bruce had two hits and one RBI. Rayburn had one hit and one RBI. Johnson had one hit and one RBI. McKenna Johnson, Hannah Hurtz and Brooklin Mathers each had one hit.
“The girls are doing this work, not us,” Hoke said. “They are the ones working their tails off and they deserve all the credit.”