OKLAHOMA CITY — In the minutes immediately following Tupelo's stunning 7-5 loss to upstart Lookeba-Sickles Friday night at DolesePark in the semifinals of the Class B state baseball tournament, Tiger fans and family members milled around behind the third-base dugout and tried to make sense of what they had just seen.

Some cried, but most just stood quietly. A few people seemed angry, although not sure at what exactly. Others simply stared at the field, reliving the previous two-plus hours and thinking about what might have been for their team — a team that entered Friday's game riding one of the most impressive late-season streaks ever seen in Oklahoma fall baseball but a club that, sadly, wasn't going to be one of two playing for a state title on Saturday.

Ranked No. 1 and a clear-cut favorite in Class B after beating the top five teams in Class A in the span of just over a week to close out the regular season and winning six postseason games — including Thursday's quarterfinal contest with defending spring state champ Chattanooga — by a combined 100-2, the Tigers (who finished the season 29-7) simply couldn't dig themselves out of an early 6-1 hole and went on to arguably the most disappointing defeat in their school's proud baseball history.

With the victory, Lookeba-Sickles moved on to Saturday's championship game and an impressive 13-2 victory over second-ranked and defending Class B fall champ Dover — the same team that beat the Panthers in the regional tournament and beat Tupelo, 6-3, in the title game last fall. Friday’s loss also marked the third straight state tournament in which Tupelo had lost a heartbreaker to the eventual state champion (Dover last fall, Chattanooga in the first round last spring and Lookeba this fall).

Junior Cameron Mann, who had built an impressive state tournament resume' since his freshman year (when he helped Tupelo to the 2005 spring state title, the school's first in almost 40 years) and had been a dominant pitcher in recent weeks, suffered through the toughest night of an outstanding career. The hard-throwing right-hander (whose fastball reached 92 miles per hour Friday) walked the first four Lookeba batters he faced (three of them on 3-2 pitches), then surrendered a two-strike, two-run double to Ethan Gee and a two-strike, three-run homer to Jeremy Beaver that ended his night on the mound after just six batters and 38 pitches.

“Our one constant all year had been our pitching,” Tupelo coach Clay Weller said. “We hadn’t had an inning all year like we did in the first. Cameron was sharp in the bullpen but he just didn’t have his command when he got out on the mound.”

Freshman Brendan McCurry came on in relief after Beaver's rocket over the left field fence put the Panthers up 6-1 and surrendered just one unearned run the rest of the way, but Lookeba starter Justin Vincent did just enough to keep the Tigers at bay. A hard-throwing lefthander, Vincent scattered eight hits, struck out 11 (five of them on called third strikes) and allowed just two earned runs, and he made his three biggest pitches of the night — all strikes — to Tupelo sophomore Jeremy Stein to end the game with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh.

"Obviously, I was disappointed in the way we played, but I wasn’t disappointed in the effort and the fortitude they showed to battle back after getting back 6-1 in the first inning,” Tupelo coach Clay Weller said. “Brendan’s not a typical freshman. He came in and kept his head and kept us in the game. I ws really proud of the way he handled himself and the job he did in the last six innings. That should give us some confidence to go to him in the spring, because we know how he handles himself in a big game.”

McCurry, who saw older brother Randy toss a shutout as a freshman to help Tupelo to its 2005 spring title and a three-hitter to beat Chattanooga (12-1) Thursday, turned in an outstanding effort in his state tournament debut. He struck out just two batters and had at least one baserunner in scoring position in five of the six innings he worked, but he always had a big pitch to get out of trouble. The Tupelo defense turned double plays to end the second and third innings, Beaver was stranded after leading off the fifth with a double, and Mann threw out Rubio attempting to steal after he reached on an error leading off the sixth — just two pitches before Ky Recker lined what would have been an RBI single to left-center.

Tupelo took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on Casey McCollum's hustling one-out double to right-center and Randy McCurry's two-out RBI single to left, but the Tigers didn't get another hit until the fourth, when they scored three unearned runs with the help of two Lookeba errors after Vincent had retired the first two batters in the inning.

Chad Woods started the rally with a single to center, then Jared Romines lifted a pop fly on the infield that should have ended the threat before it really began. But Lookeba right fielder Kennan Mogg raced in to bump second baseman Matt Dixon as he prepared to make the catch, knocking the ball from Dixon's glove. Stein followed with a line-drive double to the wall in left-center to score Woods and make it 6-2, and Romines and Stein both scored when Dixon's throw was wide of first base on an infield single by Tupelo leadoff hitter William Boaz.

Lookeba scored a valuable insurance run in the bottom of the inning, when leadoff hitter Valentine Rubio singled on the first pitch he saw, stole second and scored on a pair of Tupelo errors on the same play — a failed two-out pickoff attempt by McCurry, who threw the ball into center field (with nobody covering second base) and saw the ball get past Boaz, who was charging in to back up the play.

Patric Tolentino, who had been hit by a pitch with two outs, moved to second on the botched pickoff, but he was stranded when Boaz raced into right-center and made a spectacular sliding over-the-shoulder catch at the wall on a screaming line drive by Gee to end the inning.

Vincent pitched out of a jam in the fifth, retiring Brendan McCurry on a pop to second and striking out Woods after the Tigers had put runners at first and second (again with the help of a Dixon error) with one out, and he pitched around a one-out infield hit by Stein in the sixth before Tupelo mounted its last big threat in the seventh.

Mann, who had struck out looking at Vincent breaking balls in his previous two at-bats, ripped another Vincent curve (on a 1-2 pitch) down the left field line for a leadoff double, and, after Randy McCurry grounded out, Vincent walked Paul Sweeney and Brendan McCurry to load the bases. Woods drove in Mann with a sacrifice fly to left to make it 7-5, and Romines coaxed a walk (on a 3-2 pitch after he had fallen behind 0-2) to re-load the bases, but Stein swung and missed three straight times to end the game.

“I felt good about things even when we were down 6-1,” Weller said. “i was confident we could come back, but we just couldn’t get big hits when we needed them.”

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