Late-inning heroics are getting to be a habit for the Ada Legion Post 72 Braves.
Coming off a Zone Tournament in which they scored five runs in the eighth inning in an 11-9 win in Game 1 and four runs in their last three at-bats in an 8-5 victory in Game 2 against McAlester last week, the Braves wiped out 6-0 and 11-4 deficits and outslugged the Oklahoma City Ruf-Neks, 21-15, in the wildest of four opening-round games Wednesday at the American Legion State Tournament at Bill Doenges Memorial Stadium in Bartlesville.
The victory, Ada’s 10th in 11 games, left the Braves — the tournament’s No. 2 seed — at 25-16 on the season heading into tonight’s 8 p.m. winner’s bracket showdown with (Muskogee) Three Rivers, which beat host Bartlesville, 8-5, in Wednesday’s nightcap. Post 72 ace Jon Gray (2-0) is due to start tonight’s game.
In the other winner’s bracket contest, the Oklahoma Outlaws — the top seed and defending state champions — will face the Edmond Stars for the right to meet the Ada-Three Rivers winner in Friday’s winner’s bracket final. Both teams scored easy victories Wednesday, with the Outlaws beating Dewey, 16-4, and the Stars rolling over Ardmore, 16-1.
Ardmore and Dewey were due to meet at 10 a.m. this morning, with the Ruf-Neks and Bartlesville scheduled to play at 1 p.m. in elimination contests in the double-elimination tournament.
Ada snapped an 11-11 tie with eight runs in the seventh inning, and the Braves led 21-12 heading to the ninth before the Ruf-Neks scored three times to make it close again. Former Shawnee standout Saulyer Saxon, whose two-run seventh-inning homer was the game winner in Friday’s zone-clinching victory, belted a grand slam and Roff’s Blake Logan added a three-run shot in the Braves’ decisive seventh-inning outburst.
The 21 runs were the most scored by the Braves this season and the most they have scored in a playoff game in the three seasons since coach Travis Graham returned Legion baseball to the Ada area in 2008.
“We showed a lot of resliency,” Graham said. “We’ve put ourselves in a good position. Offensively, you have to be proud when you score 21 runs and climb out of a seven-run hole.”
Ada trailed 6-0 after three innings and 11-4 heading to the bottom of the fifth inning, then the Braves began to exert their offensive muscle. They scored three runs in the fifth, tied the game with four more in the sixth and blew the game open with their rally in the seventh.
Les Wesberry’s two-run double and Nolan Fanning’s RBI double (in their first at-bats of the game) were the big blows in the game-tying sixth-inning rally, then Saxon hit his home run to center to give the Braves their first lead of the night. Logan — who didn’t have an at-bat in the Zone Tournament but was the winning pitcher in Game 2 — capped the rally with his three-run blast to left.
Roff’s Tim Wallen, who hit two of Ada’s four home runs in the two wins over McAlester, had his first five-hit game of the season, including a double, and drove in three runs in the marathon three hour, 15-minute contest. Logan finished 4-for-6 with three runs scored and four RBIs, Fanning was 3-for-3 and added a leadoff home run in the eighth to his big double in the sixth, and Wesberry was 2-for-2 with three runs scored and three RBIs off the bench in the win.
The two teams combined for 43 hits — 24 by the Braves — and used nine different pitchers. Blake Wheat started for Ada but lasted only three innings and didn’t figure in the decision. Tyler Porter (3-0) got the victory after relieving Rhett Acker, the second Post 72 pitcher, in the sixth inning.
“Early in the game, it seemed like the ball couldn’t miss their bats,” Graham noted. “We just needed a pitcher to go out there and stop them, and Porter came in there and did a job. He gave us a chance to save some of our other arms for tonight and tomorrow.”
Josh Johnson hit two home runs and combined with Tyler Hill and Hugh Herrera to drive in 10 runs for the Ruff-Neks in the loss.