Travis Graham and his Ada Post 72 Braves won’t have an easy road to a third straight American Legion state tournament.
Although Graham said the Braves are “kind of a 2 or 3 seed” behind the top-seeded and defending state champion Oklahoma Outlaws from Midwest City, they figure to face a strong test in their zone tournament from a McAlester squad that split a doubleheader at East Central University on June 6 in the only meeting between the two teams this summer.
“McAlester has about six kids who tried out for our Legion team, then when the McAlester Legion team was created (after an eight-year absence from Legion play), they went and played there,” Graham said. “They’re the kind of team that, if we don’t show up and play, they can beat us.”
Each of the first two games between Ada and McAlester last month was a nail-biter, with the visitors rallying from an early 5-0 deficit for an 8-6 victory in the opener and the Braves winning the nightcap, 9-8, on Tanner Bell’s walkoff home run in the eighth inning. Those two games would indicate Graham’s club will have a much tougher test in its zone than in 2009, when the Braves scored back-to-back run-rule victories over Dewey in the best-of-three series to advance.
“Right now, we’re kind of at a 2 or 3 seed, with Midwest City No. 1,” Graham said. “Once the zone is determined, then the seeds will be finalized for the state tournament, but for the zone we set up a 2 seed. For the state tournament (if the Braves get past McAlester), we could be anywhere from a 2 to 4 seed, depending on how other teams seed us.”
Ada enters the week with a 16-15 record that is quite a contrast from the 37-9 mark the Braves carried into the playoffs last summer. After breezing past Dewey, Graham’s club won four of six games at the state tournament, finally losing to the Outlaws in the “if-necessary” championship game at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond to finish 43-11.
“I’m not too concerned about the rankings going in,” Graham said. “I’m really confident that our pitching staff will give us a chance to win every game. If we play defense and continue to score runs, we’ll be okay. We’re not your normal 16-15 team, simply because of the schedule we’ve played.
“I would be just as confident as the eight seed as I would be if we were the No. 1 seed,” he said. “You still have to beat everybody to win it.”
Graham said the opener of the zone tournament will be played on Thursday, July 15, with the second and third games (if necessary) to be played the following day at a site to be determined. The Braves have played most of their home games this summer at ECU, but improvements currently being made to Tiger Field will force the tournament to be played elsewhere.
“I don’t know where we’ll play, because East Central will still be under construction,” Graham said. “I don’t have a site yet.”
Other zone assignments have the Outlaws hosting Okmulgee, Stillwater entertaining the Edmond Stars, Brassfield at Dolese Park against visiting Ardmore, and the Oklahoma City Ruffnecks hosting Lawton in two-team tournaments, and Dewey and Three Rivers invading Rogers County for a three-team tournament in Claremore. As the host of this year’s Legion state tournament, Bartlesville receives an automatic bid.