ROFF — Roff freshman Talon Rhoten hit a mammoth grand slam in the bottom of the fourth inning to finally give the Tigers some breathing room in a 17-9 win over local rival Allen in the fifth-place game of the 23rd Roff Baseball Tournament Saturday afternoon at Tiger Park.
The Tigers rebounded from a 4-3 loss to Class B No. 3 Leedey (the runner-up in the tournament) in the first round to win three straight games to claim fifth place. Roff, No. 4 in Class B, improved to 15-10 on the year, while Allen (No. 13 in Class A), fell to 15-11.
In other tournament games Saturday, Tushka edged Leedey 8-7 in the titel game and Dale dumped Lookeba-Sickles 11-1 for third place.
Roff 17, Allen 9
The game went back and forth before Roff finally ended the game via the run-rule with four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.
“It was kind of like a heavyweight fight, wasn’t it?” said Roff head coach Ead Simon. “It was a good atmosphere with two good baseball teams. That’s what it’s about.”
Rhoten’s big blast set off plenty of fireworks for both clubs. The home run put Roff on top 13-5 and had the Tigers three outs away from a run-rule victory.
The big blow also sent a few Allen folks into a frenzy. Rhoten’s shot left the ballpark in a hurry over the left field fence. The ball was hooking toward the foul line, but appeared to stay over the foul pole as it left the yard.
The umpire obviously believed it was a fair ball. Roff head coach Ead Simon believed it was fair and consensus from the Roff press box — after some discussion — thought it was a legitimate home run.
Allen relief pitcher Ty Brown didn’t believe it stayed fair and was promptly ejected for sharing his beliefs with the umpire. Allen head coach Stephen Caldwell was also ejected after having a post-home run discussion with game officials.
A handful of Allen fans also screamed “foul” at the umpire. The contest was delayed for several minutes before order was restored.
It was the first home run in a varsity game of Rhoten’s career.
“That kid is going to be a really good hitter one day. He’s a big ol’ kid and has a lot of pop,” Simon said. “He had been struggling at the plate a little bit, so I was sure glad to see him get ahold of one. He’s going to hit a lot of those in his career. I’m glad it happened for him.”
The Mustangs responded with four runs in the top of the fifth inning to stave off the run-rule for a bit. Tucker Elliott’s two-run single was the big blow — and the only AHS hit of the inning, that also included two walks and two hit batters. Allen had cut the Roff lead to 13-9 at that point.
The Tigers quickly answered in the bottom of the fifth. Dayne Bowerman hit an RBI double, Jacob Jones added a two-RBI single before Zane Brown hit a walkoff run-scoring hit.
Roff dropped a tough 4-3 decision to Leedey (No. 3 in Class B) in a first-round matchup but defeated Union City (No. 4 in Class A) and Coleman (No. 11 in Class B) before winning its third straight tournament game against Allen in the fifth-place contest.
“Normally, the consolation game is not something to get up for,” Simon said.
“Really, we had three baseball games against people that could beat us any day. And I think we trailed every game,” he continued. “As good as this tournament is, it doesn’t matter if you go forward or backward, you’re going to play good people right here before playoffs. I love it.”
Allen grabbed the early lead with four runs in the top of the first inning. Brown supplied a two-run single and Tanner Wofford drove in a run with a base hit.
Bowerman cut the Allen lead to 4-1 with a run-scoring hit in the bottom of the first.
Elliott, who finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs at the top of the Allen lineup, led off the second inning with a solo home run that put the visitors on top 5-1. He was the only Allen player with more than one hit.
Roff’s bats came alive in the bottom of the second as the Tigers scored seven run on six hits. That RHS outburst was highlighted by a three-run homer by Conner Priest. Cooper Simon, Aiden Bagwell and Conner Baldridge also had RBIs in that frame.
After a shaky start, Roff starting pitcher Kaad Gore settled in. He retired nine of 10 batters he faced from the second inning to the fourth inning before being relieved in the fifth.
The Tigers finished with 16 hits in the contest and every RHS player in the lineup had at least one hit. Eight Roff players had at least one RBI.
Bowerman finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Jacob Jones also had three hits and three RBIs for the Tigers.
Simon said he he likes the direction his young team is heading. Roff’s starting lineup Saturday featured four sophomores and two freshman. Jacob Jones is the team’s lone senior.
“We still have some things we need to get better at, but I like our club. I see us getting better every day,” Simon said.
“We’ve had to grow up a lot, starting last fall. We kind of wiped the slate clean and had to start over,” he continued. “It’s just a matter of being in situations. Even in this tournament, we got some kids in situations they may never have been in before. The more that can happen, the better we’ll get.”
The Tigers have played 21 ranked teams and Class 5A Lawton MacArthur and Class 4A Sulphur this spring. That slate should have Roff playoff ready.
“We’ve seen (No. 1) Red Oak and (No. 3) Leedey and (No. 2) Lookeba-Sickles and those clubs may be a little bit ahead of us right now, but they’re not far. On a given day, we could have a guy go have a good mound performance and slip up on any of those guys,” Simon said.
The Tigers host Wanette at 4 p.m. Thursday in a Class B District Tournament doubleheader.
Allen hosts Stonewall at 4:30 p.m. today before hosting a Class A District Tournament Thursday involving Dewar and Wetumka (Allen’s district games could be moved to a Wednesday-Thursday format. That decision had not been made as of press time).