By Buck Ringgold
Courtesy Fort Smith Southwest Times Record
SPIRO — Rain was steadily falling and Stigler was threatening to extend the Class 3A regional tournament.
Nothing, though, was going to stop the Spiro Bulldogs from making school history.
The Bulldogs escaped a jam in the top of the seventh with a double play on a flyout as Spiro held on for a 5-4 win against Stigler in Saturday’s regional championship game.
Spiro (27-6) now makes its second consecutive Class 3A state tournament appearance, a first for the Bulldogs. It starts Thursday in the Oklahoma City area. Last season at this same point, the Bulldogs ended Eufaula’s state tournament run at four years.
Stigler (21-13), which needed to win the game in order to force an additional game for the regional title, had Garrett Spradley on at second base as the tying run after Trace Jackson singled home Lane Thornton to get the Panthers within a run. Spiro coach Paul Croft then went to the bullpen, bringing in Frankie Solomon from right field to close while inserting Taylor Ridenour — who had not played up to that point — into right.
The only hitter Solomon faced, Bryson Cook, hit a flare into shallow right but Ridenour got a jump on the ball and was able to snag it before it hit the ground. Spradley was heading toward third and had to get back to second after Ridenour made the catch. However, Ridenour threw to shortstop Hunter Wilson at second right before Spradley was able to get back in time, meaning Spiro got a game-ending double play to head back to state.
“We felt good about it, I just thought that ball was down from the get-go, and the kid (Ridenour) was playing him (Cook) in pretty much and got a good jump on it,” Stigler coach Kevin Wilkett said. “Defensively, they can play and they can run down balls and they can do all that stuff defensively. They can really play.”
Spiro also got an outstanding defensive play in the top of the fourth with the score tied at 3-3. With two out, Stigler’s Austin Drewry hit a long fly ball which went into foul territory in left, but Spiro left fielder Jason Hickman was on the run and made a diving catch right before landing into the tarp along the fence.
Hickman then gave Spiro the lead in the bottom of the fourth, hitting a two-out single down the left-field line to bring in two runs which put the Bulldogs up, 5-3.
The Bulldogs trailed twice in the game before rallying to tie it. After Stigler scored in the top of the second, Spiro tallied its first run when Colton Harper hit a leadoff double and eventually scored on a two-out wild pitch.
Then after the Panthers took a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth, Spiro evened it once more. With Wilson on and two out, Colby DeMato sent the first pitch he saw from Stigler pitcher Cade Shearwood soaring over the wall in left. DeMato’s seventh homer of the season tied it at 3-3.
Quaylon Griffith, who helped win last season’s regional at Eufaula for Spiro, got the win on Saturday. He went 6 1/3 innings and gave up two earned runs on eight hits, striking out three. Solomon recorded the save on the game-ending double play.
Jackson, Spradley and Lane Thornton had two hits apiece for the Panthers. Thornton gave Stigler a 1-0 lead in the top of the second on a two-out RBI single. The Panthers went up 3-1 an inning later on back-to-back RBI hits from Seth Sandlin and Shearwood, both coming with two out.
Coweta 7, Tahlequah 6
The Tigers staged a four-run rally but came up short of forcing the “if” game in the Class 5A regional final at Tulsa Memorial.
It was 7-2 going into the bottom of the seventh. Colby Brittain’s bases-loaded single plated two runs after Logan Lewis and Houston Glad led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Austin Riley walked to reload the bases, then Ryan Sanders singled to make it a 7-5 game.
After Ben Stacy struck out for the first out of the inning, Jordan Blalock laced a fly ball to right which was caught. Brittain scored, but Riley, who took off running from second, was doubled off on the throw back in to end the game.
Tahlequah (13-21) had nine hits, two by Glad, who also had a run-scoring double in the third.
Brittain was the losing pitcher. He gave up six hits and six runs, five earned. Glad went two innings of hitless ball, striking out three. Sanders entered in the seventh and gave up what proved to be the winning run on two hits.
“As long as our season has been, our guys grinded down to the last inning,” Tahlequah coach Nick Zodrow said.
— Phoenix staff report
Vian rained out
After numerous delays, the Class 3A final between Vian and Morris was postponed Saturday. The teams will meet at noon Monday at Vian. Should Vian, who beat Morris 7-6 on Friday, lose, the two teams would play a second game immediately following the first one.
— Phoenix staff report