The Byng Pirates looked like they had taken all the drama out of their match-up with local rival Ada after scoring six runs in the top of the first inning.
But the host Cougars didn’t go down without a fight.
Ada scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth and still had runners at first and second before a heads-up defensive play by Byng shortstop Brandon Fortner short-circuited the comeback bid as the Pirates hung on for a tense 8-7 victory.
Byng improved to 13-8 on the year while Ada slipped to 10-13.
“It snowballed on us in the end, but we found a way to hold on to it,” Byng head coach Shawn Streater said. “Like I told them, all that matters is we won the game. This time of the year, you’re trying to get momentum going into the playoffs and hopefully this can help us out.”
Ada had cut deficits of 6-0 and 8-2 to a single run with its outburst in the bottom of the sixth, and it looked like the Cougars weren’t done when Cale Russell stepped to the plate with runners at first and second.
Russell hit a ground ball toward the hole between Fortner and third base that the Byng senior tracked down with a nice back-handed stop.
Jordan Boone, who was on second base, never stopped running at third and Fortner alertly threw the ball to catcher Joe Nemecek instead of trying to gun down Russell at first. Boone was caught in the routine rundown for the final out of the inning.
“Fortner made a heckuva play there in the sixth. I just knew he would throw across to first. But he didn’t, and threw us out at the plate. That was a good, heady play by him. Hindsight is 20-20,” Ada head coach Ronny Johns said.
Byng freshman Reid Wall went to the mound with one out in the sixth and helped the Pirates get out of that sticky situation and then pitched around a leadoff walk to Cody Johnson in the bottom of the seventh to earn the save.
“That was big for him. That was probably the first time he’s ever had to go out there and save a game. Normally he’s a starter, but he came in and did a great job,” Streater said. “He’s stepped up for us all year. He’s growing up for us every day he goes out there.”
Johns agreed that it was a big spot for Wall.
“You have to give Wall some credit. The freshman came in closed it,” he said.
Ada’s sixth-inning volley started with infield hits by Russell and Mason Girdley sandwiched around a bloop base hit by Cody Johnson that loaded the bases with no outs. Ada DH Scott Johnson then hit a two-run single to right field before Ryan Kinder followed by lacing a two-run triple to the gap in right-center (after watching a 3-0 count turn full). Wall then relieved Fortner, the Byng starter.
Kinder would score the final Ada run on a groundout by Jackson Boone. But Jordan Boone walked and Easton Pingleton singled to center to set up Russell’s grounder to Fortner.
“Any time you play someone you’re familiar with, it’s important to get that win. Ada’s a good club. If we don’t make a couple of plays, they beat us,” Streater said.
Byng scored its six runs in the first on the strength of a two-run single by Nemecek and an RBI hit by Jake Scroggins — the only two hits of the uprising. The Pirates would take advantage of four walks, two hit batters and several wild pitches and passed balls to push the rest of the runs across.
“We put 10 runners on by walk or hit batter (5 walks, 4 hit batters). Five of those scored, and another guy scored that got on by an error. That’s the game,” Johns said. “I was really proud of our kids, the way we came back. Again, you spot them all those runs and it’s tough.
“They took advantage of those walks and things. You just can’t dig yourself in a hole like that. That’s kind of been our Achilles heel.”
Ada outhit Byng 10-6, with Russell finishing 3-for-4 with a double. Cody Johnson (who got Ada on the scoreboard with a solo home run over the wall in right field off the first pitch he saw from Fortner leading off the second inning) added two hits and two RBIs for the hosts while Kinder finished 2-for-3 with a double and his triple.
Russell pitched well in relief for the Cougars, allowing just two runs on four hits in 6.2 innings of work.
Justin Frazier was the only Byng batter with more than one hit, finishing 2-for-3. All six of Byng’s hits were singles.
Byng returns to action today, hosting Tecumseh at 4:30 p.m.
Ada opens play in Carl Albert’s Bill Tipton VII Tournament, but plays all of its pool play games at Shawnee’s Ed Skelton Field beginning Wednesday night with a matchup against the hosts Wolves at 6:30 p.m.
Ada meets Bishop McGuinness at 1:30 p.m. Thursday before taking on McAlester and the OKC Broncos in a tournament doubleheader beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.