Ada’s Post 72 Braves did enough to win their regular-season finale against the visiting Durant Braves, 9-3, Monday afternoon at East Central University. But any satisfaction they got from putting their fourth straight 30-win season safely in the books was tempered by the uncertainty they have to feel heading into Wednesday’s opening round of the American Legion zone tournament at Rose State College in Midwest City.
Playing without starting second baseman Hunter Marcum and DH and back-up third baseman Brandon Maggia (who will also miss Wednesday’s playoff opener), the Braves still banged out 13 hits and got at least one hit from every spot in the lineup while improving to 30-8 this summer. On the down side, they left 15 runners on base in eight at-bats and didn’t score after pushing across two unearned runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
More pressing, though, is the team’s pitching situation heading into Wednesday’s (2:30 p.m.) opening-round regional contest against Lawton. Already stretched thin because of injuries and defections, the Post 72 rotation absorbed its hardest body blow of the summer Monday when staff ace Blake Logan was officially shut down for the rest of the season.
Logan pitched his final two innings in a Braves uniform Monday with several college coaches — including one from Wichita State — watching him work and earned the win to improve to 5-0. He struck out three of the six Durant batters he faced, giving him 71 strikeouts in his last 34 innings.
Eastern’s Craig Price had informed Logan and Post 72 coach Travis Graham before Monday’s game that he not only didn’t want Logan to pitch during the Legion playoffs but also didn’t want him to play center field, where he has started all season.
“He said I can only DH,” Logan — who has hit a team-record 16 home runs this season — said after Monday’s game, in which he went 3-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs. “He doesn’t even want me to warm up. I’m disappointed that I can’t pitch, but I’m really disappointed that I can’t play the outfield.”
The Braves had baserunners in all eight of their at-bats Monday and at least one hit in seven of eight, but they squandered repeated scoring chances late in the game after scoring three runs in the first, four more in the second and two unearned runs — the only runs surrendered by Durant reliever Dillon Proctor in six-plus innings — in the fourth.
Durant (20-8), which has former Post 72 players Rhett Acker and Nolan Fanning and their former Coalgate teammate, Bradley Stowe, on the roster, along with Byng’s Jake Wellington, took a 2-0 lead in the first inning off Ada starter Matt Benedict — the team’s undisputed ace now that Logan is out of the rotation. Stowe plated the game’s first run with a one-out double down the left field line, and Wellington drove in Fanning (who had walked with one out) with the second on a groundout.
But the local Braves answered with a two-out rally of their own in the bottom of the inning to take the lead for good.
Jake Sanders, moved to the leadoff spot in the Ada batting order with Marcum unavailable, started the rally with a double to center, moved to third on a groundout by Cody Robinson and scored on Dylan Tinkler’s clutch two-out single to right. Tinkler scooted to third on the first of three hits in the game by Tanner Bell and scored the tying run on a wild pitch.
Logan followed with a towering fly ball that dropped just in front of the wall in center field for an RBI triple to give Ada the lead for good. Durant starter Colby Hicks hit Dylan Johnson with an 0-1 pitch, but Logan and Johnson became the first two Post 72 baserunners to be stranded in the game when Moses Isham lined out to right field.
Back-to-back one-out walks to Sanders and Robinson ignited a four-run Ada rally in the second. Matt Johnson plated Sanders with a single to left on a 2-2 pitch, Robinson scored on Bell’s two-out single to center, and Johnson scored the third run in the inning on Logan’s line-drive single to left. Hicks then walked Dylan Johnson and Isham to force home another run and bring on Proctor, who struck out Josiah Nyberg to end the inning.
Acker led off the third inning with a double and scored on Stowe’s two-out ground-ball single to left to cut the Ada lead to 7-3, and Durant had a chance to inch closer in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Benedict hit Tanner Gwin with a pitch, and nine-hole hitter Easton Cardenas followed with a fly ball that landed on the line in shallow right field for a double.
Gwin tried to score on the hit, but he was easily out at home on a perfect throw by Nyberg, and Durant managed just one hit — Gwin’s bloop to almost the same spot where Cardenas hit his — with two outs in the ninth. Matt Johnson, the fourth Ada pitcher, then retired Cardenas on a fly ball to right to end the game.
Ada added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth with the help of one of two Durant errors in the game. Logan singled with one out, moved to second on an error on Dylan Johnson’s slow roller past the mound and scored on Isham’s single to right. Johnson then scored the game’s final run on Nyberg’s first-pitch sacrifice fly to left.
The visitors got four of their six hits off Benedict, who had surrendered an earned run in only two of his first seven starts this summer. Logan and Tinkler then worked two scoreless innings apiece (although Tinkler hit a batter and walked two more in the eighth but also served up a double play ball) and Matt Johnson continued his solid recent work on the mound by retiring three of the four hitters he faced in the ninth.