Oktaha’s counterpunching ability on Thursday propelled the Tigers into the semifinals of the Class 2A state baseball tournament with an 8-3 quarterfinal win against the Calera Bulldogs on Palmer Field at Dolese Park in Oklahoma City.
The Tigers (31-10), winners of nine straight games, drew first blood as James Wilson’s solo home run sparked a five-run third inning. That happened just after Oktaha snuffed out a two-on, one-out threat by Calera in the top half of the inning thanks to a double play started by shortstop Gabe Hamilton, relayed to second baseman Mason Ledford and on to first baseman Brody Surmont.
“It was a fastball down the middle,” said Wilson of his blast to center. "I knew I needed to get on and start something.”
Tigers pitcher Tyler Allen gave up consecutive walks to start the sixth which eventually led to a three-run inning, only one of which was earned, to get within 5-3.
“I told him going in, just give us a chance, and he did a good job competing in the zone,” said Oktaha coach Kevin Rodden. “I wasn’t sure how we’d respond getting hit in the mouth and we responded well. We had some quality at-bats and got ourselves off the ropes.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Wilson again led an Oktaha surge with a single to center. Surmont singled in a run, and two sacrifice bunts, one each from Allen and Hamilton, provided the equalizer to the Bulldogs’ rally.
Hamilton finished with two RBIs, the other coming on a bases-loaded walk in the third.
Oktaha was 3-0 this school year against Calera, which finishes the spring 32-6. The Tigers beat the Bulldogs twice, 8-0 and 8-1, to win their regional in the fall season, then lost to Canute in the state quarterfinals.
“I felt coming in we were the better team. But when you get to this point in the season it’s all about execution and doing the things you’re supposed to do and when you don’t, you go home no matter who you are,” Rodden said.
That may be the case Friday when they take on Silo (31-2) at noon Friday at this same park with a berth in Saturday’s championship at stake. The two teams split in the fall, Oktaha winning behind Jakob Blackwell 7-3 in the Silo Tournament, then the Rebels no-hitting the Tigers in regionals, 10-0 off the pitching hand of Kyler Proctor.
Friday will likely feature Blackwell against Proctor in a battle of staff aces.
“That’s probably the matchup but hey, they’re Silo, we’re Oktaha, and that alone should make it a heck of a game with good pitching on both sides,” Rodden said. “But like I said, at this point, the team that makes the least amount of mistakes is likely the one coming out on top.”
Delayed one season, this is Oktaha’s fourth consecutive trip to the semifinal round. The Tigers have made it past there once, that being in 2018 went on to lose in the 3A finals. Last season was canceled due to the pandemic.