YUKON — The energy level rose just a little in the Eufaula dugout when Chandler pitcher and Oklahoma Sooner signee Jonathan Gray didn’t come out for the 10th inning of Thursday’s Class 3A quarterfinal here.
Through nine innings, the 6-foot-4 senior had struck out 20 Ironheads batters, yet found himself mired in a 1-1 iron-man battle of right-handers with Eufaula sophomore Brady Colbert. But to start the 10th, Gray took his spot at third and in came centerfielder Chance Rich to relieve him.
“He’s a special kid,” Eufaula coach Preston James said of Gray. “But when (Rich) came in we knew we sensed a chance to make something happen.”
Colbert’s suicide squeeze bunt made a 2-1 Ironheads’ win happen, the roller back to Rich coming well after Carter Baldwin broke from third. Rich pumped toward his catcher but realizing he wouldn’t be able to make the play in time, hesitated long enough to throw late to first, allowing Colbert to reach safely.
“Coach told me to make the play,” Baldwin said. “When the pitcher’s leg came up, I took off, and Brady put it down.”
Damage done. The Ironheads (24-12), with no seniors and just two starters back from two consecutive semifinal trips including a loss to Chandler last year, sealed the upset of the No.1-ranked and top-seeded Lions (32-5) when Colbert held them to a one-out single in the bottom of the inning.
While James wasn’t sure what Colbert’s pitch count was at game’s end, Chandler coach Geoff Matheny knew his guy had thrown enough after allowing four hits on the day. The Ironheads finished with seven hits.
“He was up to 145 pitches and that’s an inning more than we’d give him normally,” Matheny said. “I was hoping he’d get the run he needed, but he didn’t.”
Colbert gave up six hits and walked two, but in an indication of his fuel tank status, four of his six strikeouts came from the seventh inning on.
“Brady’s just been a warrior for us in those situations when we needed him,” James said. “He lost a little late, but he relies on his offspeed stuff for strikes, and because of that he was able to stay in the game.”
That and a little bit of adrenaline and determination.
“I felt good the whole time I was out there, and I wanted it bad because they beat us last year,” Colbert said. “Then when I stepped into the box (in the top of the 10th) I knew in that situation I had to make the most of it.”
That’s because there had been so few opportunities before. Gray had 12 strikeouts before Eufaula scored its first run in the sixth. Daniel Salters doubled into the left field corner to lead off the inning and Dylan Helms followed with a single up the middle which Rich, then in center, scooped but bobbled, allowing Salters, who hesitated at first, to come home to tie the game at 1.
Chandler’s run came in the fifth. Casey Barrier singled toward the line in left to score Mitch Tarver, who led off the inning with a single.
Eufaula shortstop Hayden Walch had two magnificent leaping grabs, one in a three-up, three-down fourth and the other preventing further damage in the fifth with two on base.
The game was moved to Yukon due to wet field conditions at Choctaw.