For The Yukon Review
DEER CREEK – After outscoring their opponents 34-2 on Day 1 of the regional tournament, it would have been easy to expect that the Yukon Millers were going to have an easy path into the state tournament.
But that would not be the case.
When they came back Thursday, the Millers dropped their first game and had to play Deer Creek for a third time in a winner-take-all contest.
Unfortunately for the Millers, the hot bats they were swinging the day before never returned, and they fell 6-4 to the Antlers at Deer Creek High.
“I thought the girls fought hard,” Yukon coach Katy Hoke said. “We didn’t hit as well as we did yesterday. I think the wind played a big part of it. They played hard, they fought hard. It just wasn’t our day at the bats.”
That was evident when the Millers came up in the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing by two runs.
Yukon had the core of its lineup coming to the plate as they looked to make a comeback.
However, both AJ Rayburn and Makenna Johnson hit deep flyballs that were caught in the outfield for outs.
“Both of those hits would be out of the park yesterday,” Hoke said. “Today the wind blowing straight in, as hard as it is, they got held up for the left fielder to catch them. It was good, solid contact. The right launch angle to go out. We just can’t have that on a windy day. You have to keep the ball on the ground.”
Kaylee Witte got the last out to end the game and Yukon’s season.
Entering the day, the odds were on Yukon’s side to advance. Besides having already trashed Deer Creek Wednesday, the Antlers had to win three straight games on Thursday to win the regional title.
After beating Putnam City, they turned around and beat Yukon 4-1.
In that first game, the Millers suffered a huge loss when catcher Ashlynn Bruce fouled a ball off her left leg and dropped to the ground immediately screaming. She had to be helped off the field and did not return to the game.
“Losing Ashlyn to the knee injury in the first game kind of hurts,” Hoke said. “It’s just different when you have a leader behind the plate for the whole year and, suddenly, we have to swap it out.”
In Game 2, Johnson got Yukon started in the bottom of the first. She came up with a bloop single that knocked in Hannah Hurtz and gave the Millers a 1-0 lead.
However, after pitching a full seven innings in the first game, Kaylee Bradley got off to a rocky start. The Antlers’ Whitney Kimberlin drove in two runs before Erin Ritz and Caitlyn Wells each added an RBI off Bradley to give Deer Creek a 4-1 advantage.
Bradley was pulledb and Rayburn took the mound.
Yukon answered in the bottom of the second, when it brought a run home on a wild pitch and closed the gap to 4-2.
In the fourth inning, Johnson struck again. With two runners on base, she snaked a single into right field to bring home two runs and tie the game at 4-4. She finished the regional with 17 RBIs in four games.
That was all the Millers could muster the rest of the day.
“I thought they turned it around in the second game and fought really, really hard,” Hoke said. “But that is a really good ball club. It just fell their way and not ours today.”