During an impressive winning streak that grew to three with Thursday’s back-to-back run-rule victories over the Stillwater Pioneers and the Moore-based Cleveland County Shockers at the Brad Holt Memorial Tournament, the Ada Post 72 Braves have shown they can hit, pitch and play defense. But the most important thing they’ve demonstrated over the past three games is an ability to rebound.
Coming off just their second two-game losing streak of the summer — a 7-1 loss to the Shockers in the nightcap of a doubleheader Saturday and an equally ugly 10-5 loss to Ardmore in the opener of their Monday twinbill — the Braves have outscored their last three opponents by a combined 46-4. And they haven’t looked better in all phases of the game at any time over the past two seasons than they did Thursday.
Dylan Tinkler homered and doubled in both games and Brandon Maggia went 6-for-7 with three doubles to lead an Ada attack that pounded out 33 hits — 12 of them for extra bases, including four home runs. That was more than enough for Game 1 starter Dalton Pickering, who allowed one hit in an 18-0 rout of the Stillwater Legion AAA squad, and budding ace Matt Benedict, who tossed a four-hitter in a 16-2 rout of the Shockers to improve to 4-1 and take over the staff lead in wins.
The Braves were also perfect on defense, playing error-free ball all day while the Ada offense took advantage of a first-inning error in each game to score four unearned runs.
“We had something to prove, because Moore stopped our (nine-game) winning streak (with Saturday’s Game 2 win),” Post 72 coach Travis Graham said after seeing his club — which has gotten at least one hit from every spot in the batting order in each of the last three games — win for the 16th time in 20 games to improve to 21-7 on the season. “We wanted to show that the team that lost those two games (Saturday and Monday) wasn’t really us. We didn’t feel like we got beat in either game — we felt like we LOST both of them.”
Their two victories Thursday gave the Braves — the 2008 Holt champions — the inside track to Sunday’s (2 p.m.) championship game, with only Saturday’s (5:30 p.m.) opponent, Muskogee Three Rivers, standing between them and a perfect pool play record.
Ada Braves 18
Stillwater Pioneers 0
The first of three Stillwater errors in the game opened the door for a four-run first-inning rally, and the rout was on. Stillwater starter Kevin Todhunter compounded the error by hitting Matt Johnson with his next pitch and walking Tinkler to load the bases. Tanner Bell delivered Ada’s first run of the day with a sacrifice fly, Blake Logan followed with a two-run double to left-center, and Maggia smacked the first of his three doubles in the game just inside the first base bag and into the right field corner to plate the final run in the inning.
Johnson’s line-drive three-run homer to left — his seventh of the season — was one of six hits in a six-run second inning that also included Maggia’s second double in as many innings, a two-run single by nine-hole hitter Cody Robinson (one of his three hits in the game) and Hunter Marcum’s RBI single.
Tinkler’s opposite-field, fly-ball home run to left-center with two outs in the third made it 11-0, and the Braves bunched seven hits — including RBI doubles by Maggia, Tinkler and Jake Sanders and Robinson’s third hit, an RBI single to right — to score seven more runs in the fourth.
Pickering, who is making a strong bid to become the No. 3 man in the depleted Ada rotation, walked three but allowed only a two-out, third-innng single to right by Luke Spencer in his four innings on the mound to improve to 3-0.
In addition to the three hits each and five total RBIs from Maggia (who lined out to first in his only other at-bat) and Robinson, the Braves got two hits, three runs scored and two RBIs from Tinkler; two hits, two runs scored and two RBIs from Logan (who walked in his other plate appearance); and two hits, three runs scored and an RBI from Sanders to key a 16-hit attack.
Ada Braves 16,
Cleveland Co. Shockers 2
A one-out error on Tinkler’s ground ball to second — after Shocker starter Ryan Rathbun had walked two of the first three batters he faced — again paved the way for a four-run Ada rally in the first inning.
The error loaded the bases ahead of Bell’s RBI groundout, and Logan again came through with a clutch hit, lining a two-run double into the left field corner. Logan scored on the first of Maggia’s three hits in the game to make it 4-0.
After failing to score in the second inning (despite hits from Matt Johnson and Bell), the Braves went back to work in the third and batted around in each of their final two at-bats. Every starter in the Ada lineup had at least one hit and Marcum beat out of pair of infield singles in a marathon eight-run third-inning rally, and three hits, three walks and a hit batter produced four more runs in the fourth.
Kade Curry’s towering blast over the fence in center field, following a leadoff walk to Maggia, made it 6-0, and after consecutive hits by Marcum, Sanders and Johnson loaded the bases, Tinkler — hitting right-handed after homering from the left side in Game 1 — lined a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left-center for his sixth homer and the Braves’ third grand slam of the season. Singles by Bell, Logan, Maggia, Dylan Johnson and Marcum produced two more runs and made it 12-0 heading to the fourth.
Tinkler, back hitting lefty, lined an 0-1 pitch from the third Shocker pitcher, Jack Reynolds, to the wall in left-center for a one-out double to start Ada’s fourth-inning outburst. Maggia’s third hit of the game, a two-out, ground-ball single to right, scored Tinkler, and after Reynolds walked Curry and Dylan Johnson to force in another run, the final Moore pitcher of the day, Zach Hargus, walked Marcum and hit Sanders to force in the Braves’ final two runs.
Benedict, who had pitched three shutouts in four starts, breezed into the fourth with a one-hitter before surrendering three hits — a single by Zak Bieber and back-to-back doubles to Taylor Daniels and Sam Pack — on consecutive pitches to start the fourth. He settled down at that point, however, and retired the next three batters to end the game on the run rule.
Eight of the Braves’ nine starters drove in at least one run, and eight scored at least once. Maggia and Bell finished with three hits apiece and combined for four runs and three RBIs to pace a 17-hit attack. Tinkler scored three times in addition to driving in four runs, and Marcum, Curry and Matt Johnson added two hits each in the win.