JENKS – Ultimately, the weather bore down harder on the Muskogee Roughers than their opponent did.
And they’re glad it did.
The Roughers built an early lead in the Class 6A regional final and held on by grace of Mother Nature for a rain-shortened 8-7 win over Jenks at Hinch Field on Saturday.
Rain threatened the game all day, with low-hanging gray clouds hovering over the field after precipitation soaked the field overnight. But after Luke Smith led off the top of the seventh inning with an infield single for Muskogee, lightning crackled in the distance, necessitating a delay.
And then the rains came, ushering out fans who were fleeing the metal bleachers to the safety of their cars – many of whom were also looking at the ominous radar forecast on their phones.
With both teams in their dugouts for about a little more than an hour, surging Jenks praying for a break in the rain and fading Muskogee asking for the opposite, the Roughers got their biggest break of the day.
Increasingly heavy rains resulted in the game being called, sending Muskogee (11-19) to its first state tournament bid since 2009.
“We told these guys when we got here in the fall after practicing for a couple of months that we have the ability to play in the state tournament,” Muskogee coach Nathan Frisby said. “(We told them) whether we do that or not will be depending on how you guys play.”
And they played well when it counted, sweeping three games of this regional, including a pair of wins over the Trojans, who beat them 8-4 and 10-0 in the regular season.
“It’s been our goal all year,” said an undaunted Taylor Duncan, whose three-run double in the second inning gave Muskogee a 6-0 lead. “The whole year’s been a learning process, even in this regional we learned things about ourselves.
“I think we finally found our identity here. We’re a team that takes advantage of opportunities and capitalize on others’ mistakes. We can be aggressive and make aggressive mistakes, but not dumb ones.”
The Roughers were aggressive Saturday, grabbing a number of extra bases on steal attempts, and forcing a pair of Jenks’ errors on base-running gambles.
“Well, we know we want to play aggressive,” Frisby said. “We felt like from playing them before there were some opportunities to be aggressive and we took advantage of it. It’s easier to score from second and third than it is from first.”
The Roughers jumped out to an early lead Saturday, loading the bases in the first on a walk and a pair of bunt singles before Ke’Shawn Ballard was beaned, knocking in Cayden Cockle.
Bryson Bell scored one batter later on a sacrifice fly to right field by Luke Smith. After Ballard struck out two-straight Trojans to finish off a scoreless bottom of the first, the Roughers struck again, scoring four more runs, three on Duncan’s knock to right field, for a 6-0 lead.
Muskogee added one more run in the third inning and another in the fourth, and needed every one of them. Jenks scored one in the second inning when right fielder Ethan Davis slipped fielding a ball, allowing Jenks’ Barrett Loseke to come around and score.
The Trojans added another run in the fourth, two more in the fifth and three more in the sixth, before Tony Horn, who relieved Ballard in the fourth inning, struck out Sy Snedeker with the tying run on second base.
“We knew that strikeout was big because it was the tying run on second,” Frisby said. “But we also had been told there was weather coming, we wanted to finish that inning with a lead just in case something like this was going to happen. You hate to win that way, but I’ll take a win any way I can get it.”