With three starters and head coach Travis Graham unavailable for one reason or another, the Ada Post 72 Braves figured to need contributions from all 12 of their remaining players to survive Wednesday’s first-round match-up with Lawton at the American Legion State Tournament at Oklahoma City University.
What assistant coaches Daniel Wood and Tyler Porter got was one of the most complete team efforts in the Braves’ four-year history.
Ada’s 16-6 run-rule victory over the Colonels — who split two games with the Braves at last week’s regional — was a blend of old and new. The team’s longest-tenured player, Matt Johnson, hit a pair of home runs, including a grand slam, and drove in six runs; one of the club’s first-year players, Dylan Tinkler, went back-to-back with Johnson in the sixth and seventh innings and finished a triple shy of the cycle while driving in five runs; and another newcomer, Brandon Maggia, hit a pivotal three-run homer in the fifth and finished 2-for-4 in his first playoff appearance in a Post 72 uniform after missing the regional.
That trio combined for half of the Braves’ season playoff-high 20 hits (10 for extra bases) and drove in 14 runs, but every spot in the Ada batting order recorded at least one hit, and eight different players scored at least one run. All of that production came with Tanner Bell, Blake Logan and Dylan Johnson out of the lineup.
Bell, who had a team-high three home runs and 13 RBIs at the regional, was in Tulsa for tonight’s All-State game and will also miss today’s 5 p.m. winner’s bracket showdown with Three Rivers (which beat east regional champ Bartlesville, 11-3, on Wednesday); Logan, who has set a team record with 17 home runs this summer, was ejected just seconds before Graham in the fourth inning of Saturday’s regional title loss to the Oklahoma Outlaws and also had to sit out Wednesday; and Johnson — the team’s most versatile utility player — had a family emergency but is expected to return for today’s game.
“When you’re missing those critical guys, you’re always worried,” Graham said after seeing his club improve to 34-10 with Wednesday’s victory. “We’ve had to overcome so many obstacles this year, and this was just another one.
“Offensively, you have to be happy with 16 runs and 20 hits,” he added. “Everybody stepped up, and now they all have some (state tournament) experience. We have some momentum now. I just hope we can keep it going.”
In other action on Wednesday, McAlester defeated Ardmore 5-4 in 11 innings. The Oklahoma Outlaws met Brassfield in Wednesday night’s late game.
Ada Braves 16, Lawton 6
The early innings were back-and-forth, with Lawton taking a 2-1 lead off Ada starter Dalton Pickering heading to the fourth and wiping out a 3-2 Ada lead on T. J. Turner’s two-run triple in the top of the fifth off reliever Moses Isham. But Maggia’s tie-breaking three-run homer highlighted a five-run rally in the bottom of the fifth that gave the Braves the lead for good and made a winner of Isham, who hadn’t pitched an inning before last Friday and is now 2-0.
Lawton (17-31) threatened to make a game of it again in the sixth, when Nick Yoning led off with a single to left and Dre Jensen followed with a bunt single. But Tinkler — starting behind the plate in place of Bell — picked Yoning off second (his second pickoff of the game) and threw out Jensen attempting to steal two pitches later — one pitch before Isham hit Lawton leadoff hitter Gabe Sweat with a pitch.
Instead of having the bases loaded and nobody out, the Colonels simply had Sweat at first with two outs because of Tinkler’s heroics. Christian Hill then grounded out to Maggia at third to end the inning, and the Braves went on to score eight of the game’s final 10 runs and end it on the run rule.
Tinkler also drove in Ada’s first two runs with an infield hit in the first to score Jake Sanders (who had doubled with one out) and a double in the third to plate Johnson (who had walked), and his fielder’s choice ground ball in the fifth drove in Sanders to tie the score ahead of Maggia’s home run. In the sixth, Tinkler followed Johnson no-doubt home run to left-center on a 1-2 pitch from Lawton reliever Brandon Trevino by lining a 3-1 Trevino offering over the field in left to make it 10-4.
Post 72 ace Matt Benedict came on in relief to start the seventh and gave up hits to four of the first five hitters he faced and a pair of runs — the first on Graydon Gatlin’s RBI groundout to score Cody Knight and the second on Turner’s RBI infield single — before striking out Yoning and Jensen to end what proved to be the final Lawton threat of the game.
The Braves roared back with five runs in the bottom of the inning, and once again Johnson and Tinkler were the big guns. Isham — who had given Ada a 3-2 lead with a base hit in the fourth that was turned from a double into a single when he was called out for not touching first base — led off the Ada seventh with his third hit of the game, a double into the left field corner, to chase Trevino.
Hunter Marcum and Sanders drew back-to-back one-out walks off Jensen, the third Lawton pitcher, then Johnson drilled a 1-1 pitch far over the fence in left for his 12th home run and second grand slam of the season. One pitch later, Tinkler drilled his 13th home run of the summer over the fence in right to make it 15-6.
Roff’s Jordan Scott worked around a leadoff single by Sweat to pitch a scoreless eighth (with the help of nice defensive plays from Johnson at shortstop and Sanders in center field), and the Braves ended the game with a run in the bottom of the inning. Benedict, who had singled home Kade Curry (after he followed Maggia’s home run with a double off the top of the wall in left-center) with the final Ada run in the fifth, opened the eighth with a single to left-center. Marcum then blooped a single to shallow right-center and Sanders drew a four-pitch walk ahead off Johnson’s long walkoff RBI single to the wall in left.
In addition to the four hits apiece from Johnson and Tinkler, the Braves got three hits from Isham and two apiece from Maggia, Curry and Benedict. The Colonels, who banged out 36 hits and scored 31 runs against Ada in two games last week, had 13 hits Wednesday, but only two — Turner’s triple in the fifth and Yoning’s two-out double in the fourth — went for extra bases.
Lawton cleanup hitter Taylaun Scott — 5-for-8 against the Braves at the regional — contined to pound Ada pitching, going 3-for-4, and Yoning, Turner and Knight added two hits apiece in the loss.
American Legion State Tournament
At Oklahoma City University
Ada Braves 16, Lawton 6
LAWTON 011 020 20 — 6 13 1
ADA 101 152 51 — 16 20 1
Barton McDonald, Brandon Trevino (6), Dre Jensen (7) and Cody Knight. Dalton Pickering, Moses Isham (4), Matt Benedict (7), Jordan Scott (8) and Dylan Tinkler. WP-Isham (2-0). LP-McDonald. HR-Tinkler 2, Matt Johnson 2, Brandon Maggia (A). 3B-T. J. Turner (L). 2B-Nick Yoning (L), Tinkler, Maggia, Isham, Benedict, Kade Curry, Jake Sanders (A). HL-Taylaun Scott 3-4, 3 RS; Turner 2-3, 3 RBIs; Yoning 2-3, Knight 2-5, 2 RS (L); M. Johnson 4-5, 4 RS, 6 RBIs; Tinkler 4-5, 3 RS, 5 RBIs; Maggia 2-4, RS, 3 RBIs; Isham 3-5, RS, RBI; Benedict 2-3, RS, RBI; Curry 2-4, RS; Sanders 1-3, 3 RS (A).