Before Friday night’s game with McAlester at the American Legion Zone Tournament, Ada Post 72 coach Travis Graham said he was hoping to get at least six innings out of righty Blake Logan, who had missed the Braves’ 11-9 victory in Thursday’s Zone opener with a severe stomach ache. What the former Roff star gave him was far beyond anything Graham could have expected.
With the heat index in triple digits for the second straight night, Logan allowed just one earned run in a gritty 131-pitch, complete-game effort, and Saulyer Saxon snapped a 4-4 tie with a clutch two-out home run in the seventh inning as Ada wrapped up a dogfight of a zone tourney with an 8-5 victory.
The Braves’ ninth win in 10 games improved their record to 24-16 heading into this week’s Legion State Tournament in Bartlesville — the third straight for Post 72 since Graham revived Legion baseball in the Ada area in 2008. But McAlester, which had a Legion team this summer for the first time in years, didn’t go quietly.
Four Ada errors and the Braves’ ongoing struggles with runners in scoring position helped keep the visiting Rockets in Friday’s game, and after Saxon’s blast in the seventh and a two-run shot by Logan’s former Roff teammate, Tim Wallen, in the top of the ninth made it 8-4, McAlester had one last salvo to fire in the bottom of the ninth.
Logan — who had thrown 12 pitches or less in seven of the first eight innings and hadn’t walked a batter since the fourth — walked Dexter Morgan on a 3-2 pitch leading off the ninth, then Reese Wallis grounded a single to left and Clint Redding walked on five pitches to load the bases.
Just when things were getting interesting, though, Jake Wood hit a ground ball to Ada second baseman Hunter Marcum, who flipped to shortstop Jake Sanders to start a slick 4-6-3 double play. Morgan scored the game’s final run, but Logan (4-4) struck out pinch hitter Caleb Collins on a 2-2 fastball to end the game and McAlester’s season.
“When Blake got here, he said he felt good,” Graham said. “He didn’t want to come out (in the ninth). It was his mess and his game to win.
“I think McAlester is probably one of the top eight (Legion) teams in the state,” he added. “I don’t think they got a lot of respect because they’re a new team. If they had gotten sent to a different zone, they would probably be going to the state tournament.”
“I told (Graham) I was going to pitch the whole game,” Logan said after going nine innings for the first time since he was an eighth grader. “I felt good the whole way. I definitely felt a lot better than I did last night. I was playing tonight no matter what.”
McAlester starter Matt Mason also turned in a gutsy effort, allowing five earned runs and throwing 128 pitches before leaving with one out in the eighth after walking Tyler Porter and hitting his seventh batter of the game — Shakir McCillip — on the hand with a first-pitch fastball. Mason was his own worst enemy in the first inning, when he hit four batters — the last two to force in runs — in the space of 11 pitches to hand Ada a 2-0 lead, and the first of four McAlester errors in the game helped the Braves score two more runs in the fourth — the first on Tanner Bell’s RBI double to left-center and the second on Tyler Porter’s sacrifice fly to the wall in center field three pitches later.
At that point, Logan had pitched to just one batter over the minimum, and he struck out Tyler Crabtree and Ross Rose to start the McAlester fourth. Cleanup hitter Jimmy Wilson reached on the second Ada error of the night, however, to pave the way for four unearned runs that tied the game.
Clint Redding, who drove in three runs for McAlester Thursday, pushed a single through the right side to plate Wilson and Morgan (who had reached on an infield hit) and make it 4-2, then Wood lined a 2-2 pitch to the wall in left-center for a game-tying two-run double.
Mason retired the Braves on just five pitches in the top of the fifth with the help of a double play, and Logan seemed to be showing the effects of the 35 pitches he had thrown in the fourth when C. J. Nelson lined a single to left leading off the McAlester fifth. But for the second time in five innings, Logan picked Nelson off first base before throwing another pitch, then he retired Crabtree on a ground ball to first and struck out Rose for the second straight inning to preserve the tie.
Wilson led off the sixth with a single but became Logan’s third pickoff victim in six innings before the next pitch was thrown, and Saxon — the Ada leadoff hitter — gave the Braves the lead for good in the top of the seventh.
Mason started the inning by getting two quick outs, then Marcum lined a 1-0 pitch to left-center for a double. Saxon, who had reached base in five of his six plate appearances Thursday but had reached just once (after being hit by a pitch leading off the fourth) in four tries against Mason to that point, fell behind 1-2 before running the count full. Mason then tried to throw a fastball past him, and Saxon launched it over the fence in right field to make it 6-4.
“I was just looking for something straight, and that’s what he threw me,” Saxon said. “I was DUE.”
Ironically, Ada’s defense — after committing four errors through six innings — played a huge role in protecting the lead. Right fielder Les Wesberry made a sensational sliding grab on a sinking, tailing line drive to rob Wood of extra bases leading off the bottom of the seventh, and the Braves’ infield turned double plays in the eighth and ninth innings — each time after the Rockets had put their leadoff hitter on base.
Wallen, whose three-run shot capped a five-run eighth-inning rally Thursday, gave Logan some breathing room with his third hit of the game and his second long home run in as many nights — a one-out missile over the fence in left off reliever Carter Cumbie, after Saxon had led off the inning with a single.
In addition to Wallen’s three hits and the two from Saxon in his last two at-bats, Marcum and Wesberry also finished 2-for-5.
Although they outhit McAlester, 12-8, and got a hit and/or a run scored and/or an RBI from each of their nine starters, the Braves — who stranded 15 baserunners through the first seven innings of Thursday’s game — left another 17 men on base Friday and left the bases loaded in seven of their 17 at-bats over two days.