Just a few weeks ago, Ada’s Post 72 Braves seemed likely to host one of two American Legion regional tournaments. Ranked second only to the two-time defending state (and current national) champion Oklahoma Outlaws among the state’s Legion squads, the Braves had earned the right to open the postseason at home.
But concerns by some coaches about the cost of travel back and forth to Ada for a regional lasting three days prompted Oklahoma Legion officials to send teams on the east side of the state to Muskogee for one regional while the Braves will make four trips to Midwest City for the west regional that begins today at Rose State College.
In addition to spending three hours on the road each day, Travis Graham’s squad will also have to square off against the Outlaws if they are going to nail down one of the top two seeds for next week’s state tournament at Oklahoma City University. Originally expected to sit out the regional because they’re the host team for the state tournament and don’t have to qualify, the Outlaws — who have won six straight games over the Braves going back to the 2009 state tournament, including three straight this season — will instead compete for the regional title.
“The two best teams in the state are going to be in the same regional,” said Graham, whose club improved to 30-8 with a 9-3 victory over Durant Monday. “We went from hosting (the regional) to not hosting it, and now we’re playing in it with the Outlaws.
“I don’t care, because we’re going to have to play them down the road,” he added. “I definitely think we’re going to make it to state. We’ll see how our pitching stacks up and how both teams have progressed since the last time we played them.”
The Outlaws run-ruled the Braves, 10-2, in their first meeting of the season, but the teams were tied at 10-10 late in each of their last two games before the Outlaws scored late to win, 12-10 and 14-10.
Graham, who lost the ace of his staff when Blake Logan (5-0) was shut down by his college coach (Eastern’s Craig Price) for the playoffs, said Dylan Johnson (0-1) will probably start the regional opener against Lawton at 2:30 p.m. today. If the Braves stay in the winner’s bracket, Dalton Pickering (5-1) will pitch their second-round contest at 5:30 p.m. Thursday; if Ada survives a probable second-round match-up with Ardmore, Matt Benedict (6-2) will start against the Outlaws in Friday’s winner’s bracket championship game.
In contrast to past seasons (when state tournament qualifiers were determined by seven zone tournaments around the state), four of the six teams in each regional will move on to the state tournament (July 28-31).