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Walk-off two-run single by Peyton Gray delivers Piedmont a title 'three-peat'

Wildcats rally in bottom of seventh to defeat Guthrie, 3-2, for 5A fast pitch championship
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NORMAN, OKLAHOMA - Peyton Gray knew it was her last game. 

No matter what happened in the Class 5A championship, the Piedmont senior knew her fast pitch career was coming to an end when the game ended.

With that in the back of her head, Gray couldn’t have closed out a stellar career in a more dramatic fashion. The future dental school student came up with a game-winning hit to beat No. 3 Guthrie (28-7), 3-2, and hand No. 1 Piedmont (39-3) a third straight title at the University of Oklahoma softball field.

“I have no words right now,” Gray said after the game. “It's so much fun and I'm so thankful I'm able to do this.

"I trust my teammates no matter what. They've been there for me through everything and I couldn't imagine being here with anyone else.”

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In the bottom of the seventh, Guthrie’s Kinley Duehning was on the mound protecting a 2-1 lead.

However, she put Tyler Short and Taybor Moss on base with a hit by pitch and walk, respectively. Payten Schibbelhute - who ironically delivered the walk-off hit to give Piedmont the first of its three straight state titles - then advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt.

That set the stage for Gray, who came to the plate with no outs on the board and a chance to end her career in spectacular fashion. Gray laced a shot into the outfield which brought home Short and Moss for the walk-off game-winning hit.

“I had a lot of faith in myself,” Gray said. “I had put in the work all year long and I was feeling good.

"I was not feeling nervous or anything. It was kind of crazy to me. I walked up so confident.”

After Moss slid across home plate, the Piedmont dugout emptied and the players dog-piled each other and a celebration the program has become accustomed to began.

Piedmont's Taybor Moss (14) slides home with the winning run as the Wildcats came from behind in the bottom of the seventh to claim the Class 5A state fast pitch championship.

Piedmont's Taybor Moss (14) slides home with the winning run as the Wildcats came from behind in the bottom of the seventh to claim the Class 5A state fast pitch championship.

”I was very confident that she's up there,” Moss said of Gray. “She came through in the clutch a lot of times this year and scoring that run was fricking awesome.

"Especially as a catcher who doesn't get to run for herself that much, but mainly just the fact that Peyton Gray was up there, I felt confident. I felt safe with what was going on.”

With the win, Piedmont put itself in rarefied air with their three straight titles, according to Piedmont coach Keith Coleman.

“I was told that we're the first 5A team in history to win three in a row. We're the first large school team to win three in a row since the 1990s or something,” Coleman said. “But our kids are tough. They know how to fight through adversity and have high expectations. what a special group of kids we have.

"To fight through not just the adversity of (Saturday's) game but to fight through trying to win three in a row (is special).”

When Piedmont won its second straight 5A title last season, the Wildcats erased a three-run deficit.

However, for more than six innings, it looked like the Wildcats' streak was going to come to an end.

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Down 1-0 in the top of the third, Piedmont put two runners on base with two outs on the board. That brought Hannah Nieuwenhuis to bat with a chance to tie the game or give the Wildcats the lead.

Duehning got Nieuwenhuis to pop up in foul territory. However, Duehning dropped the ball.

With the bases full, Addison Cassady hit a deep shot to left field that pushed Guthrie outfielder Ava Hebensperger back to the warning track before she was able to make the catch and end the inning.

Duehning helped her cause out even more in the top of the fifth inning when she crushed a solo homer that flew out of the stadium off Schibbelhute to give Guthrie a 2-0 advantage.

Piedmont finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth when Ashlyn Emmert laid down a sacrifice bunt to score a run and cut the lead down to 2-1. That set the stage for Gray’s seventh-inning heroics.

“She's put in a ton of work,” Coleman said of Gray. “She and our other kids have put in a ton of work over there.

"Four years here and the results show it. What a way to end it.”

-- Michael Kinney | @SBLiveOK