MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

May 10, 2014

Cats close to a catch

Wildcats win pair, on cusp of first state tourney trip

TULSA – Coaches preach about extending innings.

The Checotah Wildcats listened to coach Tom Butler’s sermon about that very well. They had six hits with two outs which led to three runs as the Wildcats beat the No. 5 Metro Christian Patriots 4-2 in the Class 4A regional winner’s bracket final on Friday.

Wyatt Hatridge, who got the first two-out hit for Checotah, a solo home run in the bottom of the first, was well aware of the importance of making Metro starter Jay Skaggs uneasy.

“But I didn’t realize we had that many two-out hits,” Hatridge said.  "They have three strong pitchers and it's important to extend innings. It digs into their pitcher’s pitch count. And the more we saw him, the better we hit him.”

Not to be overlooked was the performance on the mound of Wildcats starter Jack Christian, who went the distance and gave up just six hits while striking out two and walking two.

“Jack was outstanding today,” Butler said. “He does well in those situations. He likes to be on the mound against some of the best teams in the state and Metro’s certainly one of them.”

After the Wildcats — 27-6 and an 8-2 winner over Wagoner to start the day —  scored first, Metro (26-7) tied the game in the bottom of the third. Parker Wilson led off with a single and eventually scored on a groundout to second.

In the top of the fourth, Checotah struck for two more runs, both unearned, with two outs. The first run came home when Jimmy Eddy laced a single through the left side of the infield with two outs, scoring Mark Miles who had reached on an error and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt.

The second run of the inning looked like the final play from the movie “Major League”. With Eddy on second after a wild pitch, Christian dropped down a bunt and was safe when Skaggs threw high to first. Eddy never stopped and raced all the way home to give the Wildcats a 3-1 advantage.

“That was all Jimmy,” Butler said of the play. “That was pretty much gut instinct and him being aggressive trying to get the extra 90 feet.”

The Patriots struggled to bring runners home, having left 22 runners in its two games on Friday. Included in that was a 12-inning 9-8 win over Stilwell that ended on a wild pitch just moments prior to the start of this game

So Checotah knew one more run could give Christian some much-needed breathing room, The Wildcats added that run in the fifth on a two-out double by Hunter Collins, scoring Caleb Knight who had singled right in front of him to put Checotah up 4-1.

Facing a three-run deficit, Metro looked as if it was going to climb back into the game when Luke Preaus led off with a single. On a 1-0 pitch, Knight gunned down Preaus trying to steal and that proved critical as Hunter Stafford followed with a double and came home on Austin Judd’s single to cut the deficit in half at 4-2.

Following Christian’s strike out of Alex Schmitz, Jeremy Neel reached on an infield single but both runners were stranded when Brody Gibson popped out to Christian to end the threat.

”Defense is always important,” Hatridge said. “Especially in that inning. Caleb getting that runner stealing really turned the inning around.”

The Wildcats will play here at 2 p.m. today needing to win once more to go to state with a mulligan in hand. Metro Christian will face Wagoner, a 4-3 winner over Stilwell in an elimination game atnoon. That survivor must beat Checotah twice to deny the Wildcats a state berth.

“That’s something that hasn’t happened here in a while,” Christian said, referring to being in a position to punch a state ticket. “We just need to take it one game at a time and not think about just needing to win one game.”

Metro almost gave its spot against Checotah away in its first game of the day, surrendering an 8-0 lead when Stilwell scored eight unearned runs in the sixth inning to tie the game. The Patriots squandered chances to win the game in every inning after that until Stafford scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 12th to give Metro Christian a 9-8 win.

In the first game of the day, Checotah jumped on jumped on Wagoner pitcher Joe Charboneau for a run in the top of the first when Hatridge drove in Christian with one out. The Wildcats extended their lead to 2-0 in the third on another single by Hatridge to score Cody Cox.

Checotah made it 5-0 with three in the fourth, highlighted by a two-run single by Christian. Wagoner trimmed the deficit to 5-2 when Brett Butler drove home Wyat Grooms with two outs in the bottom of the fourth and Tyler Milligan came home on Grooms’ one-single in the fifth.

Checotah added a run in the sixth and two in the seventh to close out the scoring. Knight got the win for the Wildcats, pitching five innings while striking out six. Charboneau also pitched five innings and struck out five in taking the loss.

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