The Ada Cougars repeatedly made something — good and bad — out of almost nothing in their home shootout with visiting Newcastle Monday evening. In the end, though, the Cougars did enough good things to escape with a crazy 13-10 victory that extended their longest winning streak of the season to three games.
“It was ugly...it was just ugly,” Ada coach Ronny Johns said after seeing his club improve to 9-11 heading into this afternoon’s (5 p.m.) home game with Atoka. “We made some silly mistakes on the bases, we missed some signs, and we weren’t good with two strikes.
“The good news is we battled through that stuff and got a win,” he added, “but we have to be better than that. We need to come out and play better than that tomorrow and get ready for McAlester (on the road Thursday).”
Cale Russell finished 3-for-4 and drove in three runs, and his long home run to dead center field leading off the fifth to account for Ada’s final run was the Cougars’ only extra-base hit in the game. One inning earlier, Russell and Co. had pieced together their biggest inning of the season — nine runs — to offset an ugly four-run Newcastle rally in the top of the fourth that had given the Racers their first and only lead of the night at 5-3.
Winning pitcher Caleb Balch (1-2) started the game-winning rally with an infield hit on a high chopper up the middle, and courtesy runner Walker Whitworth stole second. Ryan Kinder reached first on a passed ball after striking out, with Whitworth stealing third on the play, and Jackson Boone plated the first run in the inning with another infield single.
Jordan Boone followed with a seeing-eye base hit through the right side to score Kinder, Easton Pingleton drove in Jackson Boone with the go-ahead run and moved Jordan Boone to third with a groundout to second, and Russell lined a sharp single to right-center to score Jordan Boone and make it 7-5.
Cleanup hitter Cody Johnson followed Russell’s hit with a ground-ball single to left to chase Newcastle starter Shea Marsh, then Mason Girdley tapped the first pitch from reliever Kenny Thompson to second and beat it out for Ada’s third infield hit in the inning. Scott Johnson walked to load the bases, and Balch — hitting for the second time in the frame — scored Jake Boone (running for Russell, the Ada catcher) with a fly-ball single to shallow center that landed among three Newcastle fielders.
Kinder followed with a line-drive single to left to score Scott Johnson and Balch with the final two runs in the inning, and he eventually moved to third on an error on Jordan Boone’s two-out grounder, but both runners were stranded when Pingleton grounded out to finally end the rally.
Although the Cougars committed four errors, they also made several outstanding defensive plays to short-circuit potential Newcastle rallies. One of those came in the top of the fifth.
Jackson Boone relieved Balch to start the inning and hit Stanton Ropp with his first pitch. Ropp moved to third on a one-out double to right-center by Newcastle cleanup hitter Bo Adams, and both runners scored on a single to right by Dylan Adams to cut the Ada lead to 12-7. Marsh then hit a screaming line drive up the middle that Ada center fielder Drew Elliott caught on the run, and Elliott fired to Kinder at second to complete an inning-ending double play.
The Cougars squandered a chance to add to their lead in the fifth, when, after Russell’s home run (which gave Ada a run in 10 straight innings against Newcastle over two games), Cody Johnson singled to right-center and moved all the way to third on an error (Newcastle’s third of the game) with nobody out. Thompson came back to strike out Girdley and retired Scott Johnson on a shallow fly ball to center, and after hitting Balch with a pitch, he retired him at second on Kinder’s fielder’s choice ground ball to short to end the threat.
Russell — who started and beat the Racers at Newcastle on March 21 — took the mound to begin the sixth and retired the bottom of the Newcastle lineup in order. But after Russell struck out nine-hole hitter Corey Nelms at the end of a tough nine-pitch at-bat to end the sixth, the Cougars wasted a leadoff infield hit by Jackson Boone in the bottom of the inning and survived one last Newcastle rally in the top of the seventh.
Kory Palmer started the Racers’ three-run outburst with a sharp double to left-center and scored on Ropp’s fly-ball double to the wall in left one pitch later. Russell came back to strike out Steed Tyler, and the Cougars got a big second out when Cody Johnson (who replaced Russell behind the plate) threw out Ropp (who had had moved to second on a wild pitch) at third attempting to advance on a high pitch from Russell that hit the netting behind home plate in the air.
Johnson’s play proved to be huge when Bo Adams beat out an infield single and Dylan Addams doubled to right-center. Bo Adams scored on a wild pitch and brother Dylan came home on the fourth Ada error of the game before Russell finally struck out Brandon Rakeshaw looking at a 3-2 fastball to end the rally.
As wild as the second half of the game was, the first half was just as strange.
Ada took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, when Jordan Boone walked on four pitches, stole second and scored on Russell’s ground-ball single up the middle. Dylan Adams answered with a towering home run to right on Balch’s second pitch in the top of the second to tie the game, then the Cougars scored runs in the second and third innings without recording a hit in either at-bat.
Balch reached base on a passed ball after striking out to start the second, Whitworth stole second one pitch later, advanced to third on a throwing error and scored on a passed ball. Pingleton was hit by a pitch leading off the third, stole second and third and scored on Cody Johnson’s ground ball to shortstop.
But after Elliott and Cody Johnson (who started at third base) turned in outstanding plays for the Cougars in the first two innings, the Ada defense committed two errors to help the Racers score two unearned runs in their four-run uprising in the fourth.
Bo Adams started the rally with a one-out laser over the fence in right-center, and Marsh kept it going with a two-out single to left. Balch then walked Brandon Rakeshaw on five pitches and surrendered a sharp single to left-center by eight-hole hitter Jack Reynolds that plated the tying run, and Rakeshaw scored the go-ahead run on an error on the hit. Reynolds then scored on the second Ada error in the frame to make it 5-3.
In addition to Russell’s three hits and three RBIs, the Cougars got two hits apiece from Cody Johnson (who drove in two runs) and Balch (who reached base four times), two RBIs from Kinder and two runs scored from Jordan Boone as part of a 12-hit attack.
Bo and Dylan Adams — neither of whom played in Ada’s victory at Newcastle — had three hits apiece and combined to score five runs and drive in four in the loss.