The first time the Ada Braves battled the McAlester Rockets this summer, the Post 72 club — playing at East Central University — saw a 9-0 lead vanish en route to a gut-wrenching 17-16 loss.
The rematch Friday night at McAlester High School’s Mike Deak Field had a much different start and the Braves liked the outcome much better.
The Post 72 club was clinging to a 2-1 lead after five innings, but scored eight runs over the final four stanzas to pull away for a 10-5 win.
The Braves (29-8) return to action Monday, hosting the Durant Braves, a select 18-and-under team coached by former Coalgate High School standout and current Southeastern University assistant coach Roland Fanning in a nine-inning contest scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at East Central.
Against the Rockets, the Braves wasted scoring opportunities in each of the first five innings, stranding two base runners in every at-bat.
“We kind of started out with no intensity, but as the game went on, we made some adjustment and scored some more runs,” said Ada head coach Travis Graham. “We left a lot of guys on base we shouldn’t have. That comes from maybe not being as focused as you’d like to be.”
Ada scored the first run of the game in the top of the third when Jake Sanders led off with a double, went to third on a base hit by Matt Johnson and scurried home on a passed ball.
McAlester answered in the bottom of the third when Ada starter Dalton Pickering hit nine-hole batter Carter Baldwin to lead off the frame and Jake Wood followed with a one-out, RBI double. After a wild pitch, Jordan Booth walked to put runners at the corners, but Pickering got out of the jam and avoided further damage with back-to-back strikeouts. Pickering struck out nine and allowed just three hits to earn the mound win and improve to 5-1 on the year.
Johnson’s RBI single in the fourth put the Braves on top 2-1.
Hunter Marcum walked to lead off the sixth and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Dylan Tinkler to put the visitors on top 3-1 before the Braves finally got some breathing room with four runs in the top of the seventh.
Sanders had the big blow of the seventh, a bloop two-RBI hit he hustled into a double while Dylan Johnson added an RBI hit. The Rockets made three of their four errors in the inning. In contrast, the Braves played nine innings of error-free baseball.
Wood hit his second double of the game for McAlester in the bottom of the seven and scored on Booth’s fielder’s choice to cut the Ada lead to 7-2.
Ryan Tucker’s solo home run in the bottom of the eighth got McAlester closer at 7-3 but the Braves answered with back-to-back home runs by Tinker — a two-run blast — and Tanner Bell in the top of the ninth to put an exclamation point on the win.
McAlester wasn’t done, scoring two runs on an RBI hit by Ross Rose and a sacrifice fly by Daniel Salters before Marcum, Ada’s third pitcher of the game, grounded the Rockets for the final two outs.
“When you don’t have any errors, you eliminate those big innings and give yourself a chance to win. That’s what cost us that first game. We had four or five errors in that game,” Graham said. “When they only score two runs in their biggest inning, you have a good chance to win.”
Sanders led the Braves with three hits while Matt Johnson, Dylan Johnson and Bell added two hits each. McAlester got three hits from Dylan Helms while Rose, Wood and Salters finished with two hits each.
McAlester has Moss, too
The Ada Braves have a pair of Moss High School players on the roster — Cody Robinson and Moses Isham. McAlester also had two Moss starters — Michael Olivio and Tyler Robinson.
Durant’s Last Stand
Monday could be the final game of the summer for Fanning’s Durant Braves. Although they meet the qualifications of an American Legion team, Durant no longer has an American Legion Post. Fanning said his team has been the summer traveling to various tournaments.
“Unless I find us another tournament pretty soon, Monday will probably be our last game,” Fanning said. “Ada doesn’t realize how lucky they have it.”
Fanning has a handful of local players on his team, including former Ada Braves Nolan Fanning, Roland’s younger brother, and Rhett Acker. Bradley Stowe, who attends Coalgate High School with Nolan Fanning and Acker, is also on Durant’s roster.
The other local Durant Braves player is Byng High School product Jake Wellington.
The Durant Braves roster also includes: Keaton Webb, Tanner Gwinn, Ruben Ramos, Colby Hicks, Dakota Diesner and Cooper Webb, all of Durant; Dillion Proctor of Caddo and Easton Cardenas of Colbert.