By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
WAGONER – Getting hot at the right time means everything heading into the postseason and for the Fort Gibson Tigers, they’re fiery.
The Tigers won their fifth and sixth straight games, defeating the Wagoner Bulldogs 8-1 and 10-7 to capture Class 4A district title at Willis Hudlin Field in Wagoner on Friday.
“It’s never easy,” said Fort Gibson coach Randy Smith. “We’re playing the best baseball we’ve played all year. The guys showed a lot of character after Wagoner had that big inning and got back after it.”
The inning Smith was referring to was the third inning of game two after Fort Gibson (14-14) had taken a 7-0 lead. Tigers’ starting pitcher Tristan Johnson had breezed through the first two innings, having hit Wyat Grooms with one out in the first inning and Wyatt Probst hit into a fielder’s choice. Johnson had also figured in the offense, capping off the Tigers’ four-run second with a three-run home run, his second of the season.
“We’re up seven and they score six in the third inning,” Johnson said. “My home run, I kinda thought it was gone when I hit it but I knew it felt good. The way we settled down after that inning shows a lot of makeup of this team.”
The third inning began harmlessly for the Bulldogs (10-14) when Johnson’s mound opponent, Skyler Davis, grounded out to second. But that would be the last out Johnson would record as the next six batters reached, and Wagoner had cut a 7-0 deficit to 7-5.
Boo Seward came on in relief of Johnson, but the Bulldogs kept the rally going with singles by Chancy Scott and Davis, the latter driving in Dylan Cantrell with the final run of the frame, to make the score 7-6.
“I was proud of the guys because the never gave up,” said Wagoner coach James Henson. “We get beat 8-1 in the first game and get down 7-0 in the second game. They showed a lot of character.
“They battled back and made it interesting. We had the tying run at the plate when the game ended.”
Seward settled down and allowed only one run to reach second base until the final inning when Wagoner mounted a desperate rally. Grant Brown induced a one-out walk and moved to second on an infield single by Davis.
After Jerrod Sloan struck out to put the Tigers one out away from the title, Preston Whitten popped up to second, but confusion between Fort Gibson’s Josh Nunez and Mark Carman allowed the ball to drop in, scoring Brown. Seward then got Grooms to groundout to Nunez to start the celebration.
“It was a fun situation to be in and to get the win,” Seward said. “When Mark and Josh missed that ball, I knew they had my back. I wasn’t worried.”
In the first game, Fort Gibson’s Eric Hudson was dominant as he allowed only three hits and one run in putting the Tigers one win away from the regionals. But the outcome was as much as what Wagoner did as what FGHS did. The Bulldogs committed five errors which led to six unearned runs.
“Fort Gibson’s a good team,” Henson said. “They made the plays in the first game and we didn’t. You can’t give a good team five extra outs and expect to win.”
In game one, Zach Drain led the Tigers going 3-for-5 with three runs batted in while Johnson was the offensive hero in game two, going 3-for-4 with three runs scored and four RBIs.