By Ben Johnson
TAHLEQUAH — Kirsten Chase says she’s never seen the movie “Major League.” Yet, her and Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn share a common bond.
Both were failed by their vision, only to get some some sort of relief. Vaughn, with the help of Willie Mays Hayes, Jake Taylor and manager Lou Brown, settled on a pair of glasses, which helped him transform into a dominant pitcher.
For Chase, it was a pair of glasses that caused her long-distance vision to deteriorate.
“I used to have reading glasses, and I got to where I could see near-sided,” Chase said. “Then, I got far-sided (and couldn’t see far away), and I couldn’t really see the ball coming off the bat or coming out of the pitcher’s hand.”
Chase’s hindrance sent her headlong into a slump this season. Even she’ll admit that.
“I just kept striking out,” she said.
But all it took to break the slump was a new order of contacts.
“(I got them back) for the McAlester game,” said the second baseman, “and I hit pretty good in that game.”
Yes, she did.
After struggling in home games against Grove and Pryor, Chase rebounded against McAlester on Sept. 27, going 2 for 4 with three runs batted in.
Since then, she’s kept it going while helping lead Tahlequah to its third straight state tournament appearance. The Lady Tigers (29-7) will debut at Oklahoma City’s ASA Hall of Fame Stadium today against Chickasha at 3 p.m.
Playing to Chase’s right in Tahlequah’s infield — as she’s done all year — will be Randee O’Donnell, who also hits one spot ahead of Chase in the Tahlequah lineup in the No. 3 spot. Together, the pair makes up one of the best middle-infield combinations in the state, according to coach Matt Cloud.
“I don’t know of very many second baseman-shortstop, 3-4 hole hitter combinations as good as them in the state,” Cloud said. “They both are steady for us. They’re both exceptional players with big careers ahead of them, well after Tahlequah High School.”
Through 36 games, Chase is hitting .388 with five home runs and 45 runs batted in. But it’s O’Donnell, the Oklahoma State commit, who has 11 home runs, a 1.019 slugging percentage, a .553 batting average and a team-high 61 runs batted in.
“She hits line drives and gets on second or something,” Chase said of O’Donnell, “and I just try to hit another line drive to drive her in.”
O’Donnell said having Chase behind her in the lineup forces other teams to pitch to her, rather than pitching around her or simply walking her.
“Like in our last game against Coweta, they walked me to load the bases,” O’Donnell said. “And I know she’s just as capable of hitting a long ball just as much as I am. So it’s nice knowing that if they skip me, they can’t skip her, too.”
As for their chemistry in the field, both agree that it couldn’t be any better.
“She knows me and I know her, so we know what we’re going to do,” O’Donnell said. “When she gets the ball, I trust her well enough to know that she’s going to be there when I need her.”
“I know she’s really, really good at what she does,” Chase said. “I know she’ll be there whenever I need her, and I know I’ll be there when she needs me.”