Oklahoma high school softball: Lauren Bratcher pushes Del City 'over the edge' to first state tournament in 18 years
DEL CITY — Gerre Griffin knew his team was facing a daunting task.
In a regional softball bracket with Santa Fe South, Lawton MacArthur and No. 2 Piedmont, the odds were stacked against the Eagles. And after falling to MacArthur in the first game, Del City would have to go undefeated to advance.
But the Eagles had one thing going for them.
Her name is Lauren Bratcher.
Del City routed Santa Fe South 14-0 on Thursday. Then Bratcher stepped into the circle for the MacArthur rematch on Friday. Before the game started, Griffin could already see there was something different about his senior pitcher.
“After the first game in the tournament, you could see it in her eyes,” said Griffin, the Eagles' 68-year-old coach. “She wanted this.”
With Bratcher in the circle, the Eagles held the Highlanders to just three runs to advance to the regional championship.
The win paired Del City with Piedmont. And because the Eagles already held one loss in the tournament, they needed to beat the Class 5A defending state champions twice in the same day to advance to the state tournament.
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“All we kept saying was, ‘We can compete with them,’” Griffin said. “In the games we’ve lost to them it's because we’ve dropped fly balls or made bad throws or had baserunning mistakes. But most of the year our pitchers have been really good.”
Even though Bratcher had just pitched a complete-game against MacArthur that day, she didn’t hesitate to get back into the circle for Del City.
“I want the ball,” Bratcher told her coaches.
After getting the nod, Bratcher threw a 4-0 shutout against Piedmont.
Just needing one more win, Bratcher chose not leave the circle.
“We didn’t even have time to go ask her,” Griffin said about Bratcher asking to pitch again. “She was in the groove and in the moment.”
Bratcher led the Eagles to a narrow 3-2 win over Piedmont. After the final out, the Eagles ran and piled on top of Bratcher in the infield.
Overall, the Crowder College signee threw three consecutive games to help lead Del City reach its first state tournament since 2002. Every run MacArthur and Piedmont scored was unearned. It was one of the most amazing string of performances Griffin had seen.
“She was getting better every game,” Griffin said. “Whenever she decided to transfer from Midwest City, we were extremely blessed to have her come to our school.”
Del City didn’t start the season as well as it had finished it. The team constantly battled through injuries and COVID-19 complications, causing them to post a 2-15 record through the first 17 games.
It all changed when Bratcher became eligible in mid-September. In her first game against Noble, she led Del City to an 8-2 win. It sparked a four-game winning streak and a complete turnaround of the season. The Eagles won five of its last seven games, before winning the regional championship.
She has her mechanics down, she throws strikes and she’s very coachable,” Griffin said about Bratcher. “She’s really pushed us over the edge. She makes us a better team.”