SHAWNEE — After watching it flounder in a sea of mistakes in losses to Yukon and Shawnee Wednesday, senior lefthander Tyler Carter righted Ada’s ship with arguably his best outing of the spring Thursday at Ed Skelton Field.
Carter, coming off a couple of rocky outings that had dropped his record to 3-3 on the season, shackled Lawton Mac (ranked No. 10 in Class 5A) on two hits and struck out 11 en route to his third complete game of the season, leading Ada to a 2-1 victory at Carl Albert’s Bill Tipton VI tournament. The win virtually guaranteed the Cougars (9-16 and ranked No. 16 in 5A) won’t finish last in their five-team pool and gave them a chance to finish as high as third if they can upset the Oklahoma City Broncos in their pool-play finale at 4 p.m. today.
With the exception of leadoff hitter Tanner Rainey, the Lawton Mac lineup did virtually nothing with Carter, who mixed an occasional fastball with a dominating assortment of breaking pitches. Rainey reached on an error in the first, and his two-out double to the wall in center field was the only hit off Carter through five innings.
Carter walked losing pitcher Eric Zukerman (the MacArthur nine-hole hitter) on five pitches leading off the sixth, however. Zukerman promptly stole second and scored when Rainey lined a 3-2 pitch to left field for the second and final hit off Carter. T.J. Turner reached on the second error of the game on a ground ball to the left side of the infield, and both Mac runners moved into scoring position with just one out on a sacrifice by Barton McDonald.
But Mac cleanup hitter B.J. Mellott hit a sharp ground ball that Ada third baseman Caleb Balch fielded and fired to catcher Mark Byers, who applied the tag on Rainey for a big second out, and Carter struck out Ryan Osborn on three pitches — the third an eye-high fastball — to end the inning. Carter then fanned the side on 11 pitches in the top of the seventh to seal the victory.
“He got ahead of hitters, and he was hitting his spots,” Ada coach Ronny Johns said when asked about the difference in Carter’s effort Thursday and his previous two outings — both run-rule losses. “He has to PITCH — he can’t just throw. Plus, the defense made some plays behind him.
“We just have to be more consistent, especially defensively,” Johns added. “I feel like we’ve been putting the ball in play better.”
One hitter who had no problem putting the ball in the play in the Cougars’ last two games was junior first baseman Cale Russell. He was 2-for-3 with a home run for the second straight day Thursday, following his majestic three-shot to center in Wednesday’s 8-6 loss to Shawnee with a shot over the 380-foot sign in left-center with two outs in the first inning Thursday to stake Carter to an early 1-0 lead. The home runs were Russell’s first two of the season and just the third and fourth for Ada overall.
“He’s a big, strong kid but he’s more of a line-drive hitter,” Johns said of Russell. “He’s been our most consistent hitter so far.”
Zukerman rebounded from Russell’s homer to retire five of the next seven hitters before Kobi Cupps — whose sliding grab of Osborne’s sinking liner to left in the top of the inning was the defensive play of the game — opened the Ada half of the fourth by legging out an infield hit. Cupps moved to third when cleanup hitter Byers lined a one-out double to the wall in left-center and scored on Carter’s sacrifice fly to right.
The Cougars managed just one more hit — Russell’s one-out single in the sixth — the rest of the way, but Carter sandwiched perfect innings in the fifth and seventh around his escape in the sixth.
Carter also had the only other hit off Zukerman when he singled leading off the second, but he was picked off first base one pitch later. Ada’s only other baserunner in the game was Drew Elliott, who walked with one out in the third but was cut down trying to steal on a nice throw by Mellott, the MacArthur catcher.