Coach reflects on 2019 softball season

Coach Katy Hoke had nothing but good things to say about the Yukon Millers’ softball team, whose season came to a disappointing end Thursday in the regional championships.
The Millers’ season ended one game shy of the state tournament at the hands of the Deer Creek Antlers, which used back-to-back wins to advance.
The Antlers’ win came less than 24 hours after the Millers had easily handled them.
Yukon had been a power-hitting team all season behind the bats of AJ Rayburn and McKenna Johnson. The two combined on the season for 19 home runs and 83 runs batted in.
Johnson finished with 46 RBIs, followed by Rayburn’s 37 RBIs.
The two also combined to score 85 runs.
However, in the regional finals, those bats didn’t have enough power to overcome the Oklahoma wind, which held the ball in mid-air to allow Deer Creek’s outfield to gather them in.
Hoke said the two losses were tough to take because of how well her squad had gelled.
“The girls fought hard, just came up short,” she said. “I thought they did a lot of good things toward the end. We played a lot of good teams in the last two weeks, and they stepped up to the challenge in some areas, and in others, we fell just a little bit short.”
Yukon had advanced to the regional finals by defeating Deer Creek on Wednesday 11-1 on a seven -BI game by Johnson.
Deer Creek would have to win three straight games to advance to the state tournament.
They first beat Putnam City before facing the powerful Yukon squad.
Pitcher Kaylee Bradley went the distance in the first game, while Rayburn was on the mound for much of the second.
Both pitchers were facing not only a strong Deer Creek squad, but also a stout wind.
“We just had a couple of things that didn’t go our way on Thursday. I don’t think they (the team) ever gave up. They fought hard until the very end. I think they surprised a few people with their play in those two days. I’m just sad they don’t get to play one more week,” she said.
Yukon was facing Deer Creek’s top pitcher and was able to generate 10 hits.
“We just couldn’t string them together. We out-hit them,” Hoke said. “The weather was more of an issue than she (the pitcher) made it.”
Both Johnson and Rayburn had towering hits that on most days would have been out of the park. However, that was not the case Thursday.
“We did make good contact with her. Just the weather; when you hit the ball up in that kind of wind, it isn’t going anywhere,” Hoke said.
It also impacted Deer Creek, but Hoke said the Antlers were able to adjust to a ground game, where Yukon was unable to do so.
“We rely on that longball,” she said. “We did not adjust to the wind well enough.”
While the season came to a close, Hoke said she was not disappointed in how her team played.
“The girls played hard. I’m not disappointed, and they shouldn’t be disappointed. They should hold their heads high. They beat some really good teams and they played hard with some really good teams. They made a big statement on the very last time they got to play. I’m very proud of them,” she said.
As for surprises, Hoke said there were a few, including the hitting of lead-off batter Hannah Hurtz, who finished the season with 24 RBIs and 42 runs.
“Hannah just had a phenomenal year. It didn’t surprise me, but it was very pleasing. … She hit better than she had ever hit for us,” she said.
Bradley was the team’s go-to pitcher. She finished with an earned run average of 3.1 with 56 strikeouts.
The team loses eight seniors to graduation, but will return the bulk of the starting lineup next season.
Yukon finished 24-13-1.

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