YUKON – Over the course of a 50-game winning streak you have to be a little lucky at times and take advantage of opponents’ mistakes on a regular basis.
Two-time defending state champ Shawnee played that script to a T on Friday afternoon to topple the Durant Lions, 4-1, in the weather delayed opening round of the Class 5A State Baseball Tournament.
The Wolves, who are ranked first or second in most national polls, plated all four of their runs in a rough third inning for the Lions as miscues accounted for three unearned runs on just a pair of hits.
Over the remainder of the contest Durant starting pitcher Connor Roberts continually kept Shawnee’s powerful attack in check, yielding just two other hits in five frames. He struck out seven and walked two in the complete game performance.
Durant also finished with a seven to four edge in hits.
“At all levels of play most games are decided a lot by one big inning,” Durant head coach Ron Moore commented. “We had a few misfortunes in the third inning that hurt us. Overall we had more opportunities than they did over the course of the game. We hit a lot of balls hard in scoring chances but just couldn’t get many to fall.
“Connor threw it really well today. He only allowed four hits and kept them off balance. You have to give them (Shawnee) credit though. They’ve won 50 straight games for a reason. When you make a mistake they are probably going to capitalize on it.”
The contest started off as a pitcher’s duel between Roberts and Oklahoma State signee Tanner Sparks, who returned to the mound after resting the past three weeks with an injury.
Roberts had the Lions’ lone hit until the top of the third when Brayden Green slapped a one-out single and Matthew Knox added a bunt hit a sharply hit ground ball to first by Roberts was snagged on a close play at the bag.
Shawnee, which upped his record this year to 38-0, then did its damage as Jacob Hill was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Eli Davis and A.J. Barron followed with hits to plate the first round and a pair of Lion errors opened the floodgates as the Wolves added two more tallies. A Sparks sacrifice fly to center made it 4-0.
The Wolves picked up only one hit the rest of the way on a Sparks single that ricocheted off Roberts in the sixth.
Durant, 23-14, threatened again in the fourth and pushed across its only run when Brady Nichols opened with a single and advanced on a Shawnee error. Cade Buchanan drew a walk and Jensen Simmons delivered a single to left for a RBI. Sparks fanned two straight however to squelch the rally.
A Brady Morgan single started things again in the sixth inning but a double play quickly got the Wolves out of trouble.
The Lions had one last chance in the seventh with Finley and Knox posting two-out singles but Roberts flew out to center to close the contest.
Knox ended with two hits with Roberts, Nichols, Simmons, Morgan and Finley recording one apiece.
“I’m proud of the kids’ effort,” Moore added. “We’ll be back though.”
Contact Kevin Farr at 580-634-2161 or [email protected]