Carla Harris, special correspondent
The Ada News
In a rare battle on the diamond that many believe hasn’t occurred since the late '90s, fans of the Latta Panthers and the Ada Cougars got their money’s worth in a nine-inning thriller in the third-place game of the Ardmore-Lone Grove Showcase Saturday afternoon.
In dramatic fashion, the Class 2A second-ranked Panthers edged the Cougars 7-6 for the victory.
Ada tied the game at 6-6 after four runs in the top of the fifth, stringing together four consecutive hits combined with three Latta errors. The teams then remained deadlocked until the bottom of the ninth. Brady Johnson led off the inning with a base on balls. After he stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Treston Tully, Latta leadoff hitter Brandon Mills ripped a shot down the left field line that plated the game-winning run.
“We had so many mistakes (Latta committed four errors), and Ada had a lot to do with that. We have got to get better in fundamental baseball situations. It was good to come back and get the win after losing our four-run lead,” said Latta head coach Eddie Collins.
Latta scored first in the game. Mills hit a ball to third, and a throwing error allowed him to advance to second. He then moved to third off a passed ball. Trent Storts hit a sacrifice fly to right center to score Mills.
Ada struck back in the top of the second. With one out, Reed Kinder hit a double to left center. He would later score on a two-out, RBI double by nine-hole hitter Jake Boone that knotted the score 1-1.
In the bottom of the second, Brady Johnson reached on an error and advanced to second on a balk. With two outs, Mills doubled to score Johnson and give Latta a 2-1 lead. Storts was then hit by a pitch and Kade Hayes singled, but Mills was thrown out at home trying to score. Both teams had runners in scoring position during the third but could not plate a run.
Ada’s Micah Simmer led off the top of the fourth with a double. With two out,s Easton Pingleton ripped an RBI triple to right center to tie the game 2-2.
Johnson singled in the bottom of the fourth, and Tully moved him over to second with a sacrifice bunt. Mills was walked, and Storts was hit by a pitch for the second time to load the bases. Hayes was then walked, forcing in a run and giving Latta a 3-2 lead. Bryce Harris then hit a two-RBI single, and Zac Dansby followed an RBI double to push the LHS advantage to 6-2.
The Latta lead did not last for long. Scott Johnson led off Ada’s half of the fifth with a single, Mason Girdley ripped an RBI double and Kinder and Simmer both singled to start a Cougar uprising. These hits, combined with three Latta errors, allowed Ada to push across four runs to tie the game at 6-all.
Both teams had the chance to end the game well before the ninth.
Latta was able to get their leadoff batter on in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings. They had runners in scoring position but were unable to tally a run in both the seventh and eighth innings. Ada had runners on third base in both the eighth and the ninth innings but could not capitalize. Mills entered the game in relief in the top of the fifth inning to record the win on the mound. Tim Simpson pitched four strong innings in relief for the Cougars.
Mills was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs, including the game winner. Kade Hayes was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Johnson went 2-for-4, and Harris — who caught a complete game for the first time since recovering from shoulder surgery —finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
For Ada, Kinder went 3-for-4 with two doubles. Easton Pingleton was 2-for-5 with an RBI triple. Girdley was also 2-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI. Scott Johnson and Simmer added two hits each, as the Cougars outhit Latta 12-11.
Latta was without the services of starter Jake Collins, who was sidelined with a back injury. With the win, the Panthers improve to 11-2 and will face Plainview at home on Tuesday.
With the loss, Ada falls to 6-11. They will host Atoka on Monday.
“The game went about how I expected,” said Ada head coach Elliott Alberson. “It was an extremely competitive game between two good teams where a play here or there made the difference.”