Junior Connor Roberts has pitched many big games in his career but Tuesday the righthander came through in his biggest in his first year as a Durant Lion.
Roberts scattered six hits over seven strong innings and helped the Lions finally get the upper hand on District 5A-3 power Pryor in a 4-2 victory at Lions Field.
With the victory, Durant improved to 16-7 on the season but more importantly 5-2 in league play while the district-leading Tigers slipped to 16-5 and 4-1.
The Lions will try to sweep the season series and take over the district lead on Thursday in a 5 p.m. start when they visit Pryor, a place Durant has never won since the two foes became district opponents six years ago.
“Connor did a great job with the guys in the middle of their order, especially the lefties,” head coach Ron Moore said afterward. “He threw the change up and cutter a lot more to keep them off-balance and did a fantastic job.
“With him going the distance it really opens things up for us on Thursday because we have a lot of possibilities to pitch. It’s always tough when you face them at Pryor so we’ll definitely have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
As has been their forte in recent weeks, the Lions got off to another good start, claiming a 1-0 lead against Pryor starter Gus Collins in the first without the aid of a hit.
Matthew Knox and Roberts each drew one out walks before Brady Nichols hit into a fielder’s choice in which the relay through from shortstop Jarrett Gage got away to allow Knox to motor home.
Roberts retired the Tigers in order in the second before surrendering an unearned run in the third thanks to a pair of Durant errors along with two Pryor hits.
The Lions had a chance regaining the advantage in the bottom of the stanza as Brayden Green coaxed a leadoff walk and advanced to third following a Dakota Finley sac bunt and Knox single. He was nipped at the plate however on a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Roberts.
Pryor worked a pair of infield hits to threaten in the fourth before Roberts pitched out of trouble once again.
Durant finally broke through in the fifth as Green reached on an infield single and moved to second on a throwing error. Finley then walked and Knox advanced both runners with a bunt. Roberts was intentionally walked and Gavin Daws pinch hit with two outs and delivered a huge two-run single off the glove of leaping second baseman Drew Miller.
Cade Buchanan followed and reached on another Pryor miscue that plated courtesy runner Michael Wingfield to make it 4-1.
The Tigers answered with a run off two singles and a walk in the sixth but Roberts avoided any further damage with an inning-ending running catch by Nichols in rightfield.
Durant picked up a two-out triple from Finley in the bottom of the frame but couldn’t tack onto the lead before Pryor got the tying runs aboard in the seventh. Roberts however fanned Trent Harrison, his seventh strikeout of the contest, to slam the door.
“Their pitcher threw it pretty well and their coaches do a great job of mixing things up,” Moore commented. “We’re just trying to get guys aggressive on fastballs in the strikezone.
“Gavin really came through with a big hit for us tonight. He’s been swinging in pretty well and we had confidence to send him up there in that situation.”
The Lions made the most of four hits in the contest as Knox, Daws, Green and Finley ended with one apiece.
Contact Kevin Farr at 580-634-2161 or [email protected]