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Latta’s Salyer Roebuck rounds third on his way to scoring the final run in the Panthers’ 14-0 victory over Sterling Thursday in their Class A regional at Dale.

Bob Forrest
AdaEveningNews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

The eighth-ranked Latta Panthers did their best Jekyll-and-Hyde impersonation Thursday on the first day of the Class A baseball regional at Dale. As a result, Latta will probably need Dr. Jekyll to re-appear this afternoon in a game the Panthers must win to advance to their third straight fall state tournament and their fifth straight (fall and spring) overall.

Mike Hood pitched a one-hitter, the Panthers played errorless defense, and juniors Wacey Henderson and Tyler Reeves and sophomore Dylan Tinkler had key hits to key rallies in the third, fourth and fifth innings to lead Latta to a 14-0 rout of No. 9 Sterling. In the championship game, though, No. 2 Dale (28-4) took advantage of 11 Panther errors and cruised to a run-rule 14-4 victory that propelled the Pirates to their 23rd state tournament in the last 24 seasons (fall and spring combined).

The loss left Latta (19-10) needing a victory in an all-or-nothing loser’s bracket contest at 6 p.m. today for the final state tournament berth out of the regional. Rock Creek — a 9-7 loser to Dale in Thursday’s opener after giving up nine unearned runs — and Sterling (26-6) will play at 4 p.m. for the right to meet Latta later in the day.

“I’ve been in this situation a lot of times,” Collins said. “The main thing is to put your team in a position to get to the state tournament, and we still have a chance to do that.

“I was disappointed in the way we lost focus and let the game get away from us,” he added. “Those are things you don’t want to carry over to (Friday). We just have to have a short memory and go compete.”

Championship

Dale 14, Latta 4

Collins rolled the dice and started Taylor Dunigan in the title game, largely because the freshman lefty had had some success against Dale during the regular season (although the Pirates swept the season series, 3-0). Dunigan surrendered nine runs over five innings, but only four were earned because of repeated miscues by the Latta defense.

“Taylor would have been effective if we had made plays behind him,” Collins said. “My hope was that he throws it well and we put some runs on the board, then we could substitute somebody else late in the game as a change of pace. But we wasted scoring opportunities and we didn’t make plays.”

Dunigan needed just six pitches to get through the first inning, then the wheels started to come off in the second. He issued a leadoff walk to winning pitcher Trace Dilliner, who was replaced on the bases by Jace Flewallen.

Two errant pickoff attempts by Dunigan moved Flewallen to third, and Mike Harris brought him home with the first of his three hits in the game. Three pitches later, Tyler Holton homered to left-center to put Dale up 3-0.

After Latta scored an unearned run in the top of the third, Dunigan again breezed through the top of the Dale order in the bottom of the inning before running into trouble again in the fourth. The Pirates scored four times in the inning on just two hits — one-out singles by Harris and Holton — and with the help of four Latta errors.

The final two of Dale’s five errors in the game helped the Panthers score twice in the top of the fifth, then Dale answered with two in the bottom of the inning on two hits — Flewallen’s leadoff double and another RBI single by Harris. After Wacey Henderson — who had two of Latta’s four hits off Flewallen to finish the day 4-for-6 — singled home a run in the top of the sixth to make it 9-4, Dale ended it with five runs in the bottom of that inning, the last three on Dilliner’s walkoff three-run homer.

First Round

Latta 14, Sterling 0

Hood, Latta’s most consistent pitcher over the final month of the season, allowed only a double by Stephen Webb on a 1-2 pitch leading off the third inning — and pitched out of a couple of minor jams to record his sixth win in eight decisions this fall. The senior righthander had just four strikeouts, but two of those — Aaron Quickle and losing pitcher Heath Curry — came after Webb’s double to short-circuit a potential rally with the issue still in doubt.

Junior catcher Ryan Stoup grounded a clutch two-out RBI single on a 1-2 pitch in the first to put Latta up 1-0, then Henderson’s tape-measure three-run blast in the top of the third gave Hood some wiggle room. The Panthers took advantage of wildness by Curry and Webb (who relieved with one out and two men on base in the fourth) to score six runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth to end the game on the run rule.

Tyler Reeves lined a three-run double to the wall in center field to cap the Panthers’ big fourth inning (after all three baserunners had reached on walks), and Dylan Tinkler — who was 2-for-2 with four runs scored — singled home two runs to highlight Latta’s fifth-inning outburst. Tinkler and leadoff hitter Seyth Roebuck (who walked three times) combined to scored seven runs; the 2-3-4-5 hitters in the Panthers lineup (Tinkler, Henderson, Stoup and Reeves) drove in 10 runs, and the bottom of the order — Thad Gillum and Salyer Roebuck — also got in the act, combining for two hits and four runs scored.

Gillum and Salyer Roebuck both reached base on bunts after Reed Johnson walked with one out to start the fourth-inning outburst, and the lefty-hitting Roebuck laid down a perfect drag bunt up the third-base line after Gillum had walked with one out to ignite the fifth-inning rally.