By Nick Hampton
New bleachers, a new press box and a new attitude.
That’s a good summary of the Muskogee Rougher 2014 baseball edition which opened its home season with a 7-6 win over Sand Springs on Tuesday.
Thanks to last spring’s bond issue, the Roughers showed off all new bleachers, firmly set on a new concrete pad, a new press box, and a can-do attitude that was missing most of last year.
“It’s amazing how hard these guys have worked the last year and a half,” said second-year Rougher head coach Jeremy Griffin. “We preached all year that summer and fall are where championships are made, not during the season. And these guys have put so much heart and effort into this.”
After beating the Sandites on Monday, the Roughers picked up where they left off, scoring three runs in the first inning. Bryson Bell led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Caydon Cockle. One out later, Austin Jones was hit by a pitch. Harris Jones then slashed a single to left that was mis-handled, allowing Bell to score. Dakota Morse and Tony Horn followed with RBI singles to make it 3-0.
Muskogee got two more in the second inning thanks, in part, to two muffed pop foul opportunities by Sand Springs. Again Bell started it with a walk and Cockle bunted past the pitcher for a hit. Bell was forced out at third on grounder by Austin Jones. Cockle and Jones, who scored four of the Rougher runs, came home on consecutive Sandite errors to make it 5-0.
It was 6-0 when Sand Springs would get to Roughers pitcher Tony Horn with six runs in the fifth to tie the game. Horn had surrendered just three hits over the first four innings.
Muskogee came back to recapture the lead in the home half of the sixth. Austin Jones reached second on a liner to left that got away from the Sandite left fielder, moved to third on a sharp single to left by Harris Jones and scored on a sacrifice fly by Morse, his third RBI of the day.
But the Sandites (0-4) wouldn’t go away. Hunter Delozier led off the seventh inning reaching base on Muskogee’s first error of the day by Bell at shortstop. He stole second and went to third as catcher Luke Smith’s throw to second sailed into right-center field. Following a pop fly out, Cody Hale tried to bunt Delozier home. But he popped it up to a charging first baseman Harris Jones, who caught it and threw to third to doubleup Delozier and end the game.
“We’ve got some guys who are just fighters on this team,” said Griffin. “They come back and tie the game and have all the momentum. We meet and say we’ve got to play for one run. Then we go out and respond with the shot to left by Austin, we score, and then play tough to get out of a jam in the seventh.”
Harris Jones and Morse led the way for the Roughers with two hits each. Muskogee (3-1) will play Sallisaw Thursday at noon in the opening round of the Owasso tournament.