SULPHUR — For Sulphur senior Sierra McCurry, there weren't enough hugs to give out.
Players, coaches, fans, friends, and family all got in on the action.
It was well-deserved, the fruits of a Herculean effort in the circle for McCurry, who threw 16 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings as part of a dominant effort by Sulphur, who rallied from a Thursday defeat at the hands of Plainview to top Coalgate in the early afternoon, before beating the Indians twice to win the Sulphur 3A regional and advance to the state tournament in Oklahoma City.
It is the first fast pitch softball state tournament appearance for the Bulldogs in school history.
"To get to come to my home town, first year as the head coach, and get to go to the state tournament is unbelievable," Sulphur coach Heath Gilbert said. "We came out and just lit (Coalgate) up, and that confidence carried over.
"I have the best assistant coach in the world, Woody Haigood, and just a fantastic group of girls who deserve this."
This Bulldogs squad looked nothing like the timid squad that dropped a surprising loss to Plainview on Thursday. Instead, what fans saw was the brand of softball it had shown all season long en route to a 30-8 record and a LCC title.
The lineup produced in every way possible, from clutch two-out hits to clinics on bunting and defensive play. As the day went on, Sulphur's presence on the diamond rose up higher and higher, overwhelming an Indians squad that had efficiently run through Sulphur just 24 hours prior.
Much of that change came from McCurry. She pitched all five games for Sulphur in the regional, but saved her best work for Friday, where she threw 19 innings and surrendered just five runs, all of which came in the sixth inning of Sulphur's third game of the day.
Prior to that, McCurry had not allowed a single runner to cross home plate on the day.
"To be able to throw three games, the way she threw them, is incredible," Gilbert said.
Tears streaming down her face, McCurry was briefly speechless to describe what had happened.
"I've worked my whole life for this," McCurry said. "To actually be here, going to state, is unbelievable."
After brushing aside an overmatched Coalgate team 10-0 in the day's first game, Sulphur methodically worked through Plainview in the 2 p.m. game, manufacturing runs while McCurry held a potent Indians offense punchless for seven innings, surrendering just five hits.
Needing to defeat the Indians twice, Sulphur jumped out of the gates once again in game 2, flying to a 7-0 lead by the fifth inning. Once again, it was a textbook example of offensive execution. Lead-off hit, bunt the runner over, clutch hit, rinse, repeat.
Page 2 of 2 - Though the Indians finally managed to get to McCurry in the sixth inning of the second game, scoring five runs on a homer by Mykah Smith and a double by Jade Southerland, Sulphur simply tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh before McCurry shut down Plainview in the bottom of the seventh to complete the comeback.
Harlee Griffis, who belted two triples on the day, was one of several Bulldogs who knew that the team's effort against Plainview the previous day was not the best reflection of what could be accomplished.
"We came out on fire because we knew that they got to us yesterday, and we didn't play our best," Griffis said. "We knew we had the talent to make it to the state tournament, it was just a matter of us going out and doing it."