WAGONER — The discouragement of the seventh inning became good news in the eighth for Muskogee here Friday night, and the bad fortunes on the mound switched sides.
Pryce Jackson squandered a save opportunity in the seventh, but took one for the team in the eighth when he was hit by a pitch. It led to a bad eighth for Wagoner reliever Michael Goodnight in what became a five-run inning, then Jackson retired the Bulldogs in order in the bottom half of the eighth for a 12-7 win for MHS.
Jackson hit two batters after Brody Bouher’s infield single started the Wagoner seventh. Two errors by shortstop Devonte Gandy helped lead to a three-run Bulldogs rally that tied the game at 7 when Sawyer Jones’ sacrifice fly to Caleb Webb in center field scored Hayden Schoolcraft. Kane Bowman’s grounder to Gandy ended the inning with a bases-loaded force at second to Jaylen Dowling.
Then came Jackson’s turn to be the one plunked.
With Caydon Crain pinch-running for Jackson, Goodnight sailed a pickoff at first, allowing Crain to move up. Crain would then score when Jones, at that point the Wagoner catcher, sailed a pickoff at third to get Crain stealing. It was a throw similar to the control issues Jones had in a very short mound start in a two-run Roughers first.
Crain came home, then Jaron Castor and Kaleb Biglow drew walks to chase Goodnight. Colton Hill entered on the mound, and Dowling’s infield grounder pushed across Castor.
What followed was three consecutive run-scoring hits. Gundy avenged his earlier miscues in the field with a single to right, Webb doubled to the gap to make it 11-7, and Antonio Zapata, who had a game-high four hits, singled to center to collect the final run.
Out went Jackson, who had a much easier go for his final three outs in his first regular season appearance coming off two seasons of hard luck — a broken ankle from last year and a broken thumb the previous year.
“I’ll take the blame for getting us there,” he said of the eighth. “I threw a couple of curves (in the seventh trying to be too dirty, throwing open, then I adjusted. My team made a few errors, but we all came back together and got the W.”
Roughers skipper Johnny Hutchens had a smile afterward, his team at 2-0 now one win from equaling all of last year’s win total.
“We don’t recover from that last year,” he said. “We’ll still have growing pains. We’re young, and we will still make mistakes, but we’ll keep growing together.”
Indeed, this was a step in that direction.
The Roughers struck first with two runs, prompted by two walks off Jones to start the game. Webb, who drew one, stole second and scored on a Zapata single. Zapata scored on a wild pitch with Castor standing in at the plate.
Charles Mason, who started and went into the sixth for Muskogee, allowed Wagoner to tie with a run off a wild pitch and a single by Garrett Barton in the second.
The Roughers then posted five runs with two outs in the third, Mason drilled a two-run single, Webb a two-run double with the bases full, and Zapata finished it as he beat out a long throw off a grounder to third which scored Gandy with the fifth run.
While the Rougher defense had its issues, it came together in a big way in the bottom of that inning. Schoolcraft singled with one on and two out. Webb, in center, charged to his left to flag it down, then threw to Gandy on the relay. Gandy then threw to Austin Fletcher at third for the tag on Max Brown, who had led the inning off with a single, holding the lead at 7-2.
Wagoner got two in the sixth and chased Mason. A wild pitch scored Nathan Timmons, who doubled to lead off the inning. Back-to-back walks by Mason to Bristo Love and Chase Nanni gave way to Jackson, who gave up a single to Jones to load the bases. A wild pitch scored Love, but Jackson got Colton Hill on strikes and Bowman on a grounder to second to minimize the damage.
There were nine errors in all, five by Wagoner. Muskogee outhit the Bulldogs 10-8.
“Tough one,” said Wagoner coach Bret Bouher. “They gave us a chance there in the seventh and probably the hardest hit of that inning ends the inning, We had a tough start and battled back.”
Which made it satisfying for Webb, who along with Zapata finished with three RBIs. Webb on a 2-for-5 game, Zapata 4-for-6.
“It’s not the way we wanted it, but a win is a win to us and we’re getting better every day,” said Webb.
Muskogee is scheduled at Checotah in a 4 p.m. start Saturday. Wagoner (0-3) is at Tulsa Hale on Monday.