By Nick Hampton
The Muskogee Roughers found out the hard way how poor execution can affect the outcome of a baseball game they dropped a 10-1 decision to Stillwater in district action Monday evening at the Rougher Field.
After seeming to find their way under new coach Jeremy Griffin early in the season, including a win over perennial power Broken Arrow, the Roughers self-destructed on both offense and defense in the loss to the Pioneers.
“Way too many mistakes,” said Griffin after a 20-minute post game meeting with the team. “Mental mistakes, physical mistakes, bad approach at the plate. That was all it was.”
The tone for the game was set in the first inning. With one out, the Pioneers’ Carson Teel dribbled a ball in front of the plate that Roughers’ catcher Trey Gatzman fielded but threw it past first base, allowing Teel to go to second. One out later he scored on a base hit by Taylor Throne.
Both coaches agreed that the game turned in the second inning as Muskogee wasted a golden opportunity to get the lead.
Harris Jones and Gatzman started the inning with back-to-back hits and were sacrificed to second and third base by Tyler Bowden. Designated hitter Casey Winters bounced to Throne at third who gunned down Jones trying to score for the second out. Ethan Barton walked to load the bases for the Roughers but Tony Horn struck out to the end the inning and keep Muskogee scoreless.
“It was a big time momentum shift if we score there,” said Griffin. “After spotting them a run we come back and load the bases with a chance to take that momentum back and we do nothing.”
Stillwater coach Tony Holt agreed.
“You’re right. I think that kept the momentum on our side for a little while,” said the Pioneers’ coach. “We got some key hits later and that helped. I thought they competed well. Coach Griffin has done a great job with the program over here.”
After the squandered opportunity, it looked more like the Roughers of the past as Muskogee committed five more errors in the game accounting for five unearned runs for the Pioneers, No. 10 in the okrankings.com Class 6A poll.
Muskogee’s lone run came, ironically on an error in the third inning. Cody Floyd bunted and Stillwell Sam Kraybill made a poor throw to first that allowed Floyd to reach second. He moved to third base on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch. After that run, the Roughers managed only three more hits in the game and had just one runner get as far as third base.
Gatzman led the Muskogee offense, going 2-for-3 while the Pioneers (4-2, 3-0) were paced by catcher Michael Higgins who was 4-for-4 with an RBI and designated hitter Gage Hines who was 3-for-4 with three RBI’s.
Although it’s still early the season, Muskogee (3-3, 1-2) faces a key game tonight as they travel to Stillwater for a return engagement with the Pioneers.
“It is a crucial game since all district games figure in post-season seedings,’ said Griffin. “We still believe we have a chance to win this district, but we have to forget about this game tonight when we take the field at Stillwater and ball our kind of ball.”