By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
EDMOND – It started with fireworks, and almost ended with some.
Vian’s six-run first inning was enough firepower to outlast a pesky Stroud squad in the Class 3A quarterfinal here Thursday, the Wolverines advancing with a 9-6 victory at Deer Creek High School.
Afterward, Tigers coach Rance Plunkett put the result squarely on his shoulders, having started his ace, Greg Hyde, on the mound after his team was extended to the “if game” limit in winning its regional on Monday against Davis.
“He threw 158 pitches on Monday and that’s on me, trying to bring him back. He’s a senior and he wanted the baseball and I gave it to him. It was my decision, and it was the wrong decision,” Plunkett said.
Landon Decker parked Hyde’s first delivery over the left field wall. After Rylee Simon drew a one-out walk, Hyde plunked Dan Weer then watched Simon score when Shawn Troutman’s grounder went right through the legs of shortstop J.T. Freeman.
Jon Andrews then laced a two-run double, and Plunkett had seen enough.
In came Chipper Clovis, who walked Coffee before Rowdy Simon doubled home a pair to finish the onslaught.
“Nice way to start, and it was a good thing we did,” Wolverines coach John Brockman said.
Indeed, because the Tigers never threw in the towel. They slowly wore down the left-handed Andrews, going in order only once while working him deep in the counts. They got to him in the seventh, getting four runs on four hits. Brett Hooper came on with two outs and after giving up a run-scoring single to Gary Wright for the fifth hit of the inning, got leadoff hitter Dalton Baade – representing the tying run – to fly out to center fielder Warren Zachary for the game-ender.
Andrews (10-1) was over 100 pitches when he left.
“We made defensive plays when we had to and I made some pitches that really didn’t go the way I wanted them to but we pulled it out,” he said.
The spirit of Hyde was evident in his counterpart.
“I was starting to get a little tired in the seventh but you know, pitchers don’t want to come out,” Andrews said.
He struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings, scattering 11 hits. One of those was Hyde’s home run to left in the third for the Tigers’ first run, cutting the margin to 7-1.
“Jon didn’t have his best stuff but when he needed to make a pitch, he made pitches and we backed him up defensively,” Brockman said.
Vian had seven hits. Decker was the only one with multiple hits. It was his third home run of the season that gave his team the lead for good.
“Coach told us to come out and be aggressive. We play our best when we do that and that’s what we were trying to do the first inning,” said the Wolverines’ senior shortstop, who added a double in the sixth to finish a 2-for-3 game. He was hit by a pitch in the fourth and grounded into a double play that ended the six-run first.
Clovis gave up five hits in 6 2/3 relief innings. He struck out six, walked five and hit two.
No. 2 Vian (33-2), making its first state tourney appearance since 2007, will take a 17-game win streak against No. 3 Marlow (32-4), a 9-7 winner over Kingston, at 1:30 p.m. today at Edmond Santa Fe High School. No. 8 Stroud finished at 27-5.
The Wolverines were semifinalists in football and reached state in dual state wrestling earlier this year. Those recent experiences helped make up for the absence from this venue, in the opinion of their coach.
“We have so many upperclassmen who have been through so much in other sports, they weren’t nervous when they scored six in the first. I think they might have been a little nervous in the end,” Brockman said.