Fort Gibson Tigers

It started out much different.

Hilldale’s Keilton Siedlik shut down the first two attempts by Fort Gibson to press on the basepaths with two pickoffs, one in each of the first two innings.

In between, Evan Smith’s leadoff single in the first turned into a run off a wild pitch by Fort Gibson’s Grant Edwards.

And for a while, unlike the day before, the Hornets dodged everything Fort Gibson and their own defensive mishaps tossed in their way. Until it all changed with an eight-run, five-error sixth that blew the doors off of the District 4A-6 race as the 9-1 verdict Tuesday at the Hilldale diamond gave the Tigers (20-1, 8-0)  back-to-back blowouts of the previously co-leader Hornets (14-5, 6-2).

Jaxon Blunt’s two-run single to left broke the 1-1 tie in the sixth. Grant Edwards then singled home a run to make it 4-1.

Soon after, the Hornets got Edwards in a rundown between first and second, and with Blunt making a move home from third, Hilldale’s second baseman Caden Thompson’s throw home was about four feet off target to the first base side of home plate, bringing Blunt in to make it 5-1.

With two on and Caynen David on the mound, Cody Walkingstick singled to Siedlik, who was moved to center after his mound stint, and in a series of three bad throws around the yard, Walkingstick made it all the way around for an 8-1 advantage.

“We have a lot of speed we can use to our advantage on the bases and that makes it tough on teams,” said Blunt. “Coach always says speed kills and we have some.”

And that pressure made Siedlik the victim of porous defense in response to it all. The closest he got to an in-order inning was the first, thanks to the pickoff of Edwards. The Tigers had at least two baserunners on in every other inning, but only one run to show through five innings. Two threats were shut down by strikeouts from the Hornet right-hander.

Mahaney’s RBI off a misplay at third made it 9-1. It took Siedlik to make a long run to the wall to snag a fly from Blunt with runners at second and third to end the onslaught.

“That’s our deal,” said FGHS coach Gary Edwards, the instructor on speed’s impact spoken of by Blunt.  “We’ll play good defense, wait for our opening, and when these kids get it, they smell blood.”

Small reward, but the Hornets had a defensive stop much like they did early in the game when Smith threw home on a rundown to Joey Myers covering — the third Hilldale pitcher —  to make the out on Grant Edwards in a harmless seventh.

The damage was well done at that point, however, as well as another masterful pitching effort from the Tigers. After Weston Rouse’s two-hitter at home Monday, Edwards held the Hornets in check on three hits. He struck out four and walked only one while at one point, setting down 13 Hornets in succession.

“I felt pretty good out there,” Grant Edwards said. “I wanted to pound the zone and let my defense make plays for me — just stick around, hang in the game long enough.”

The Tigers’ only error came in the seventh when Siedlik reached on a high throw to first by Edwards, who was replaced by Mahaney to start the seventh.

Mahaney made it 1-1 in the fourth when after his one-out single, he scored on a wild pitch. He had a 3-for-4 day to lead the Tiger offense. Rouse, Edwards and Branch were all 2-for-3.

Unavailable for comment, Hilldale coach Nathan Frisby and team had a long meeting in the left field corner after the game, no doubt needing a regroup after being outscored 19-1 in two days, but still two games up on Wagoner for second in the district. They swept Wagoner and have Stilwell and Jay left, but not before Thursday’s game against Bartlesville in the Coweta Wood Bat Tournament.

Fort Gibson plays Sallisaw in non-district on Saturday.

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