By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Vian is 0-2 this season against Spiro, tonight’s opponent in the first or quarterfinal round of the Class 3A state baseball tournament.
That gets a shrug from the Wolverines, who have become acutely aware of what adversity looks like this season.
“The story of our year,” said third baseman Rylee Simon.
Coming off a 3A championship loss to Verdigris, Vian lost all but three starters. It was a similar scene to the one in football where the Wolverines lost heavily to graduation and repeated as semifinalists in what is 2A football.
And here they are this spring, 31-6 and having battled through a five-day rain hampered regional to win three straight games and the championship on Monday against Kingston.
Vian trailed 3-2 against host Heavener when rain stopped the game in the top of the fourth on Thursday. It was Saturday when the Wolverines finally won it on a walkoff hit by Josh Bolin. They went on to beat Kingston 7-3 later that day, atoning for a loss on Wednesday, then came back Monday to beat them in the decisive meeting, 11-3.
“When we came back Saturday we played with urgency, we played hard and took control,” Vian coach John Brockman said. “I’ve been amazed all year how they’ve competed. We just haven’t lost to anybody. There’s Spiro twice, Red Oak which won state last week (in Class B), and Kansas whose in our bracket this week.
“These guys, especially the juniors that followed all those seniors last year, have heard a lot about how they wouldn’t measure up. They didn’t hear it from me, though, and I’m glad they didn’t buy into it and have worked like they have to prove something.”
Not that there weren’t questions among themselves.
“Before the season I didn’t expect us to be where we are, but we’ve definitely worked to get to where we are,” said Denver Coffee, one of three returning starters and the team leader in batting average at .530.
Also back is senior Jon Andrews, who won last year’s quarterfinal game against Stroud. Andrews is 12-3 with 79 strikeouts in 65 innings. Simon, a junior, battled through some hamstring issues and was back strong in the postseason. He’s hitting .483 with a team-high 40 RBIs.
Junior outfielder Josh Cowart is one of those who has emerged from the shadows of those seniors, hitting .416. He, Simon and Coffee are in double-digits in stolen bases.
“People didn’t expect us to win in the beginning or when we got down at regionals. But it’s like football, this team has heart. That’s the way we are, we just come back and fight,” Simon said.
They’re not backing down from a Bulldogs squad that comes into the 6:30 p.m. contest at Edmond Memorial High School having beat the Wolverines 8-0 in the fifth game on the season. Spiro scored five runs in the seventh after a two-out error. then won 11-10 in the finals of the Sallisaw Central tournament. The Bulldogs are 24-8 and ranked No. 5.
“The first one got away from us. The other one was a toss-up kind of game,” Simon said. “We just need to go hit the ball and play defense well and keep our mindset. We earned our way here. Tradition never graduates.”
At Edmond Memorial
Game 1: Marlow vs. Cascia Hall, 11 a.m.
Game 2: Verdigris vs. Chandler, 1:30 p.m.
Game 3: Jones vs. Kansas, 4 p.m.
Game 4: Vian vs. Spiro, 6:30 p.m.
At Edmond Memorial
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 11 a.m.
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner. 1:30 p.m.
At Bricktown Ballpark
Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 2 p.m.