With his staff ace (Blake Logan) unavailable for the remainder of the season, his new No. 2 starter (Dalton Pickering) nursing a sore elbow and the rest of his rotation stretched to the limit, Ada Post 72 coach Travis Graham went mining for pitching on the third day of the American Legion west regional at Rose State College.
And he might have found a diamond in the rough in Moses Isham.
Isham, who had been alternating at first base with Kade Curry for most of the season, hadn’t pitched a single inning all summer before tossing a perfect ninth to close out a 17-13 victory over Lawton earlier in the day. That effort was enough for Graham to hand him the ball to start Friday night’s loser’s bracket final against Ardmore, and Isham responded with the most unexpected effort by an Ada pitcher all summer.
Facing lineup that had scored 27 runs in victories over Brassfield and Lawton Wednesday and Thursday, Isham allowed just two hits — both singles in the same inning — over six innings as the Braves rolled to a run-rule 16-0 victory over a Cardinal squad they had gone to extra innings to beat, 9-7, in the championship game at the Brad Holt Memorial Tournament 13 days earlier.
With the win, Ada advanced to meet the two-time defending state and defending national Legion champion Oklahoma Outlaws Saturday night in the regional title game. The Outlaws run-ruled Ardmore, 23-1, in the Friday’s winner’s bracket final, one game before the Braves eliminated the Cardinals from the tournament in third place.
“We ran out of arms and we looked around to see who we had,” Graham said after seeing his club — which lost an ugly 18-8 decision to Lawton in the regional opener Wednesday — win its third straight game to improve to 33-9 on the season. “Moses had been on the list of guys we wanted to look at, and he did a good job in the first game.
“I wasn’t expecting (a shutout), but I expected him to go out there and throw strikes,” he added. “He did that, and (the Cardinals) just didn’t hit him.”
Isham struck out out seven Ardmore batters and didn’t allow a baserunner in five of the seven innings he pitched Friday. The only two hits the Cardinals managed were a leadoff single by Ryan Daws and one-out single by Josh Brock in the third, and Isham responded to the first jam of his Post 72 career by striking out Ardmore leadoff hitter B. W. Savage and retiring Caleb McDonald on a ground ball to third to end the threat.
Ardmore’s only other baserunner was McDonald, who walked on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the sixth and was stranded when Isham struck out the final batter he faced, Ty Miller. Isham threw 68 of his 95 pitches for strikes.
And while Isham was silencing the Ardmore bats, the Ada offense continued to produce.
The Braves banged out 13 hits against three Cardinal pitchers — five for extra bases — and scored at least two runs in five of their seven at-bats. After trailing Lawton, 15-1, heading to the bottom of the fifth in Wednesday’s opener, Ada entered Saturday night’s championship game having scored at least one run in 16 of 22 innings.
Isham got all the offensive support he needed in the first inning. Jake Sanders reached on a one-out, fly-ball single to shallow right field and scored the game’s first run on Tanner Bell’s triple to the wall in right-center.
Logan, relegated to designated hitter duties after being shut down by his college coach for the playoffs, lined the next pitch from Ardmore starter Brian Grisman over the fence in dead center field for his 17th home run of the season to make it 3-0.
After wasting a two-out double by Hunter Marcum and failing to score in the second inning, the Braves went back to work in the third, scoring three run on just two hits — RBI singles by Kade Curry and Marcum — to make it 6-0, and they blew the game open with a four-run fourth capped by Marcum’s line-hugging double into the left field corner.
Dylan Tinkler followed a leadoff walk to Logan in the fifth with a triple to right-center and scored on Matt Johnson’s sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 12-0, then the Braves closed out the scoring with a four-run sixth-inning outburst off the third Ardmore pitcher, Tyler Gray.
Bell walked and Logan was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game to open the sixth, and Matt Johnson walked with one out to load the bases. Cody Robinson, whose single had plated Bell with Ada’s first run in the fourth inning, singled home Bell again with the first run in the sixth, and Curry followed with a two-run single into the left field corner. Robinson went to third on the hit and scored the game’s final run on Dylan Johnson’s sacrifice fly.
Marcum, who missed the loss to Lawton Wednesday, was 3-for-4 with three RBIs against Ardmore and had eight hits — including a grand slam (in Friday’s opener) and four doubles — in 13 regional at-bats heading into the championship game.
Bell failed to homer for the first time in four games at the regional but went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and his 13th RBI of the week, Robinson had his fourth straight two-hit game and drove in three runs, and Curry (who pitched a scoreless seventh in his first mound appearance of the season) was 2-for-4 and drove in a season-high four runs in the win.
Tinkler and Logan had just one hit apiece but combined to reach base seven times and score seven runs while Matt Johnson — who didn’t have an official at-bat in the game — reached base four times (the first three after being hit by pitches) and scored three runs while driving in one.
Defensively, the Braves made three highlight-reel plays behind Isham. Sanders charged in to make shoestring catches on fly balls to shallow center field with one out in the third inning and again with one out in the fifth, and Tinkler — who started behind the plate — made the defensive play of the regional in the sixth, when he snagged Josh Brock’s foul pop near the Ada dugout with his bare hand.
At Rose State College
Am. Legion West Regional
Loser’s Bracket Final
Ada Braves 16, Ardmore 0
ADA 303 420 4 — 16 13 1
ARD 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
Moses Isham, Kade Curry (7) and Dylan Tinkler. Brian Grisman, Hunter Evans (5), Tyler Gray (6) and Ryan Daws. WP-Isham (1-0). LP-Grisman. HR-Blake Logan (Ada). 3B-Tinkler, Tanner Bell (Ada). 2B-Hunter Marcum 2 (Ada). HL-Marcum 3-4, 3 RBIs; Bell 2-4, 2 RS, RBI; Cody Robinson 2-5, 2 RS, 3 RBIs; Curry 2-4, 4 RBIs; Logan 1-2, 4 RS, 2 RBIs; Tinkler 1-3, 3 RS, RBI; Josiah Nyberg 1-2, Jake Sanders 1-4, RS; Matt Johnson 3 RS, RBI (Ada).