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Down three runs, Piedmont storms back for 5-3 win and repeats as 5A state champion

Wildcats earn second straight title and third in the past four seasons

By Michael Kinney 

OKLAHOMA CITY - When coach Keith Coleman starts to reel off the qualities that make his Piedmont fast pitch softball team special, it takes a while before he gets to any of their softball abilities.

For him, it’s the intangibles that make the Wildcats dangerous.

It was those intangibles that were on display when they took on Coweta in the 5A state championship game. After falling down by three runs, the Wildcats stormed back to earn a 5-3 victory and a second straight title and third in four years.

"We have kids that are super tough,” Coleman said. “Our kids are tough, they know how to fight, they know how to win, they know how to never give in. That’s how that happens.”

Trailing by a run in the top of the sixth inning and two outs already on the board, the Wildcats' Peyton Gray doubled home a run to knot the game at 3-3.

Despite Piedmont still having two runners on base, Coweta still had an opportunity to get out of the inning without too much damage being done.

It looked like the Tigers did their job when Aubrey Pyle hit a grounder to the shortstop. However, the throw to first got away from Dasai Mason and Pyle, who was hustling down the line, legged it out and was called safe in the biggest play of her career.

“I knew I had to do it for my team and I knew I could," Pyle said. "I am the slowest person on the team and I was going, don’t mess this up.”

At the same time, two Piedmont runners scored and the Wildcats led for the first time in the game.

“We want to put pressure on them. That was our whole thing,” Coleman said. “We didn’t do that in the first couple of innings.

"It’s tough to play defense in this environment. I don’t care how many times you have been here, it’s tough.”

Payten Schibbelhute, who had a slow start in the circle, closed out the game for Piedmont by getting six straight outs, which secured the Wildcats another state title.

“I can’t say enough about our pitcher," Coleman said. "To fall behind 3-0 after two; then to find a way to keep them scoreless the rest of the way, she pitched really well.

"But that’s why she is there. She is a tough kid. Unwavering. She is a kid we have a lot of faith in.”

Despite not having her best stuff in the early going, the Wildcats stuck with Schibbelhute and the junior rewarded them with a lights-out performance.

“I knew my team could come back, we’re good at coming back,” Schibbelhute said. “If I folded, it wasn’t going to be a good turnout.

"So, I just told myself to keep trying and keep going.”

Coweta’s Chaney Helton led off the first inning with a triple. Two batters later, she scored on a Kayley Lott single into center.

Lott scored later to give CHS a 2-0 advantage.

The Tigers pushed their advantage to three runs in the second inning. The Piedmont crowd and players were stunned to see the top-ranked Wildcats down on the scoreboard.

“The key was just not giving up,” Schibbelhute said. “Whenever they first scored, I think we are all kind of in shock. We all just told each other there is still a game left, just keep going.

"Give all glory to God, he helped us through everything.”

In the top of the fourth, Piedmont’s offense started clicking. With a runner on third, Brooke Butler grounded out to drive home Hannah Lake and cut the deficit to 3-1.

The Wildcats (40-3) came back in the fifth and put a runner on second.

Tayvin Davis laced a double to center to knock in Gray. Tyler Short then grounded out but moved the runner over to third.

That brought up the 2021 Gatorade Player of the Year Karissa Fiegener. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, she popped out to center field to end the threat, but the Tigers' lead had been cut to one run.

However, Coweta (28-13) put runners on first and third with two outs on the board in the bottom of the fifth. Taylen Allen came to the plate with a chance to possibly put the contest away.

But Schibbelhute got her to pop out into foul territory to end the inning and keep Piedmont’s hopes alive.

“We are not the most talented team out there. We understand the strength of our team is our team. We understand it’s a seven-inning game and we find ways to fight and scratch and get back in it,” Coleman said.

“We felt comfortable we would have our inning; that if we kept fighting and plugging along, we would have a chance.”