Atleigh Branham heard the naysayers, and she silenced them — emphatically.
The junior center fielder came up with not one but two game-winning hits for Adair in regional tournament play to propel the Warriors to a Class 3A state tournament berth.
“Many people had doubts about us this year, and many didn’t ever think we would be where we are today,” said Branham, whose team takes on Tishomingo in the first round of the state tournament Thursday in Shawnee. “It’s so special to be able to show them that we can do it.”
Branham, the District 3A-8 offensive player of the year, came up with her heroics on the second day of the regional last week, after Adair went 1-1 on the opening day with a win over Antlers and a loss to Pocola.
The Warriors (29-8), needing three victories to reach the state tournament, dispatched of Morris 17-4, and then took aim at Pocola again. Pocola raced out to a 4-1 lead until Adair rallied to tie the game after a two-hour rain delay.
Then in the bottom of the seventh, Branham launched a game-winning home run to force a winner-take-all regional championship.
But the drama didn’t end there.
Pocola again raced out to an early lead against Adair, but the Warriors rallied from a 7-3 hole to knot the game at 7. And sure enough, it was Branham’s turn at the plate, and she delivered again with a game-winning RBI single to secure Adair’s first state tournament berth since 2008.
“It was amazing and I was so blessed to be able to have that experience,” Branham said. “I’m just so glad I was able to come up with that for my team and help keep us going after they got into scoring position.”
For Adair coach Chase Knott, the thrilling victories were unlike anything he’d ever seen before.
“Probably the most dramatic thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It was just really special because we had some players move on, and we’ve talked about adversity all year long. We knew we’d be down at some this season, but all that mattered was how we overcame in the moment. We always preach that if you’re down, it doesn’t mean you’re out.”