By BOB FORREST
EDMOND — After a promising start, the Edmond Wood Bat Tournament turned into a lost weekend for the Latta Panthers.
Latta (No. 4 in Class 2A) followed an opening 8-0 victory over 6A No. 10 Norman North Thursday with four straight defeats — two of them cut short by the run rule — to 6A teams, capped by Saturday’s 12-2 loss to Choctaw. And with the exception of Friday’s 6-3 loss to No. 18 Moore, the Panthers couldn’t really take a lot of positives out of any of their last four games.
Saturday’s loss had a lot in common with three of Latta’s last four at the tournament. Starting pitcher Dylan Tinkler had a tough time finding the strike zone and left in the third trailing 7-1 after throwing 93 pitches (only 39 for strikes); a misplay in the third turned a routine fly ball into a double and paved the way for the final four runs in that five-run outburst by the Yellowjackets; and a passed ball and the ensuing error on the play at the plate were responsible for three of the five runs Choctaw scored in the sixth to ultimately end the game on the run rule.
Latta’s offense also sputtered, managing just four hits — three singles by leadoff hitter Wacey Henderson and an RBI double by freshman catcher Bryce Harris — off three Choctaw pitchers, and the Panthers left the bases loaded in each of the first two innings.
Ty Ash, Choctaw’s beefy cleanup hitter, was a one-man wrecking crew early in the game. He followed a leadoff walk to Tanner Hessman with a two-out, two-run home run to left in the first to put the ’Jackets up 2-0. Then, after Latta had made it 2-1 in the bottom of the second on a leadoff walk to Tyler Pogue, a two-out single by Henderson and consecutive walks to Harris and Tinkler, Ash lined another 3-2 pitch from Tinkler to left-center in the third for a leadoff homer that hit the top of the wall near the 385-foot sign and bounced over.
Latta coach Eddie Collins opted to walk Ash in his final two plate appearanaces, but the Yellowjackets found their offense elsewhere — with a little help from the Panthers.
After Ash hit his second homer, Choctaw had a man on and, two outs later in the third, Zach Rapp hit a routine fly ball that Latta left fielder Taylor Dunnigan (a late replacement for Dillon Anderson, who was taking his SATs) appeared to lose in the sun. The ball fell behind Dunnigan for a double, and the ’Jackets went on to score four more times in the inning on a two-run single by winning pitcher Austin Davis, a passed ball and an RBI single by Hessman.
Latta (10-7) scored its final run in the bottom of the fourth on a one-out single by Henderson and Harris’s double to left two pitches later, but the Panthers didn’t have another hit in the game.
Choctaw, meanwhile, used a bizarre play and Latta’s final error of the week to score five times in the sixth. With the bases loaded, a pitch from Pogue (who had relieved Tinkler in the third) got away from Harris, Latta’s freshman catcher, and rolled to the backstop. Harris picked up the ball and fired toward the plate, but the throw bounced off Ash’s helmet and caromed up the first base line. Two more runs scored on the miscue, and Reggie Wright accounted for the game’s final two runs, tripling home one and scoring the other on Davis’ third hit of the afternoon.
Davis, who relieved starter Dalton Viser in the second and pitched three-plus innings before being relieved by Ash in the sixth, finished 3-for-4 at the plate with a run scored and three RBIs to pace Choctaw’s 10-hit attack. Ash was 2-for-2 with three runs scored and three RBIs, and Wright finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI in the win.
Things don’t figure to get any easier for the Panthers on Monday, when they travel to Silo to face the No. 1 team in Class 2A.