FORT GIBSON — By itself, it wasn’t decisive.
But as Oktaha found out Friday, one miscue can sometimes trigger a mess.
A pickoff at first base that bounced off Brody Surmont’s glove got Jaiden Graves home with Fort Gibson’s first run, cutting Oktaha’s 2-0 lead at the time in half. What followed was six more runs in a seven-run frame — both teams collected all their runs in the third inning — but the home-standing Tigers in a battle between Tigers had the majority in a 7-2 semifinal win in the Shootout at the Fort baseball tournament.
Winner of nine consecutive contests, Fort Gibson (17-1) will take on Red Oak, a 1-0 winner in a pitching duel against Verdigris, at 7:30 Saturday for the championship. Oktaha (11-8) will play Verdigris for third place at 5 p.m.
Jaxon Blunt’s game-tying single scored Landon Nail, whose earlier single put Graves at third before the pickoff went awry.
The avalanche was just getting started.
After Oktaha coach Kevin Rodden had a conference at the mound to settle his pitcher, Hunter Dearman, Grant Edwards grounded out. But Weston Rouse drew a walk to load the bases, then Cody Walkingstick was hit by a pitch, making it 3-2.
Brody Rainbolt’s two-run single to right made it 5-2, then Cole Mahaney finished the surge with a two-run home run to left.
The miscue indeed was followed by carnage.
“Especially in a game like this, that’s sometimes all it takes,” said Rodden. “Both pitchers were doing pretty good to that point. If you take those two innings away, we’re probably still out there playing.”
Fort Gibson coach Gary Edwards knew his team had a cleat on the Tigers in blue’s throat at that point.
“They gave us an opportunity and we took advantage of it,” he said.
Especially Mahaney, whose first high school home run helped out his mound effort.
“That’s for sure,” he said about the fastball delivery that he launched. “At that point I’m just trying to get someone else in and keep the inning alive. Luckily it went out.”
Luckily too, James Wilson was the only irritation in the Oktaha lineup.
Wilson, hitting ninth in the order, doubled to right with one out in the third as part of a 3-for-3 game. He would go to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch. Mahaney walked Mason Ledford, and after Gabe Hamilton’s sacrifice bunt moved Ledford into scoring position, Tyler Allen’s single to right scored Ledford.
Mahaney had little problem after that, retiring eight straight after surrendering an infield hit to Wilson in the fourth. He allowed in all three hits and walked three while striking out three.
“I struggled a little to find the zone,” Mahaney said. “I haven’t pitched before on the turf (mound). I had to figure out where I could get comfortable. You stick on it instead of slide like you do on a dirt mound. But I figured it out and got through it.”
Rouse came on to start the seventh and after a strikeout, Wilson singled to center to finish his perfect game at the plate. But Rouse struck out Ledford and retired Hamilton on a foul ball snag near the fence by catcher Walkingstick to end the game.
Dearman struck out seven and walked four while allowing eight hits over six innings. Rainbolt was the only multi-hits man for Fort Gibson, going 2-for-3.
It was Fort Gibson’s second win against Oktaha this season. The two played in the Tiger/Zebra Classic last week at Pryor with Fort Gibson taking a 5-2 win.
Rodden, a regular in both the spring and fall state tournaments, has had a pretty good view from the top of the area’s talent.
“(Fort Gibson’s) good,” he said. “Coach Edwards does things the right way, I’ve got a lot of respect for him. His team runs the bases well, they have a lot of team speed and they do the little things that make you make plays.
“That kind of bit us today. We didn’t play catch and they hung a seven-spot in a hurry.”
In consolation play, Hilldale rebounded from a loss to Sperry, using a six-run second in an 11-1 blowout of Jay, which assisted in the process by walking four Hornets and hitting another in the second frame. Austin Fletcher had three RBIs, two on a third-inning double for an 8-1 advantage. Overall, the Hornets drew nine walks.
Caynen David was in control throughout though, allowing four hits over four innings and striking out seven Bulldogs. Hilldale (14-3) is off until Monday’s district matchup against Fort Gibson.