If Blake Logan was getting paid for pitching for the Ada Post 72 Braves this summer, he would have earned a lot of overtime in his last two starts.
Logan, coming off an eight-inning complete-game effort in a 9-7 victory over Ardmore in last Sunday’s championship game at the Brad Holt Memorial Tournament in Stillwater, carried things even farther against the Associated Fire Titans Saturday night in the Braves’ final pool play contest at the American Legion Wood Bat Invitational. The big right-hander threw a career-high 142 pitches and struck out a staggering 22 batters while allowing just three hits over the first 10 innings, and, although he got a no-decision, Ada finally won the marathon contest, 4-3, in 12 innings.
In addition to his huge night on the mound, Logan also drove in three runs in the victory, which earned the Braves a share of the top spot in their pool — the “American League East” — but didn’t stamp their ticket to Sunday’s quarterfinals. Instead, the Titans — who finished in a three-way tie with the Braves and a team from Quincy, IL, that beat Ada, 6-3, on Wednesday — won the pool and one of eight spots in the next round by virtue of the second tiebreaker, runs allowed.
“Every team that we had in our pool with the exception of one had either won or played in the (tournament) championship game the past three years,” Post 72 coach Travis Graham said after seeing his club improve to 26-8 heading into the final full week of the 2011 regular season. “The Associated Fire team was two-time state (?Legion) champion in Nebraska.
“Our last game kind of had a championship feel to it, even though we didn’t win the championship,” he said. “It was just good baseball. There’s no telling how much longer we would have played if it hadn’t been for the international tiebreaker.”
Under the rules of the 40-team tournament, games that went longer than nine innings would then use the international tiebreaker, which puts the player who made the final out in a team’s previous at-bat at second base to start the next inning.
After neither team scored in the 10th and both scored in the 11th, Josiah Nyberg was at second base for the Braves to start the top of the 12th. Nyberg moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Kade Curry, and he scored the game-winning run on an infield single up the middle by Ada leadoff hitter Hunter Marcum.
Dylan Tinkler, the third Ada pitcher, took the mound in relief of winner Matt Benedict (5-2) in the bottom of the inning and worked out of a huge jam to preserve the win. The first Titan hitter legged out a bunt single to put runners at first and third with nobody out, but Tinkler struck out the next batter and saw the next one retire himself when he ran into his own attempted squeeze bunt while in fair territory. Tinkler then got the final out on a fly ball to left to end the game, which began at 8 p.m. and didn’t end until after midnight.
Logan staked himself to a 2-0 lead in the third, when — after Matt Johnson and Tinkler drew leadoff walks and pulled off a double steal to both move into scoring position — he hit a fly ball that the Titan center fielder lost in the lights for a two-run double. In the 11th, Logan snapped a 2-2 tie with a sacrifice fly to put the Braves up 3-2.
“He hit 94 on the radar gun in the 10th inning,” Graham said of Logan, who has struck out 68 batters in his last 32 innings. “He stayed consistent; the pitch count just got too high. Twenty-two strikeouts is an amazing deal. That’s one of the best pitching games I’ve been a part of for both sides.”
Justin Poul, who had two of the Titans’ four hits and drove in two runs, cut the lead in half in the fourth, when he tripled and stole home; his RBI single in the sixth tied the score and sent the game to extra innings; and his run-scoring single in the 11th offset Ada’s run (on Logan’s sacrifice fly to score Tinkler) in the top of that inning.
The Braves, meanwhile, managed just two hits — Logan’s double in the third and Marcum’s single in the 12th — off four Titan pitchers.
Ada has eight games remaining before heading to Midwest City for next week’s regional tournament.
The Braves will host Stillwater Wednesday, with Game 1 due to begin at 4 p.m., and they will travel to McAlester for a twinbill Friday that is also scheduled to start at 4 p.m.
The regular season will conclude with home doubleheaders next Monday (against Okmulgee beginning at 4 p.m.) and a three-way against the Oklahoma City Ambassadors and Burkburnett, Tex., that will start at 2 p.m. All games will be played at East Central University.