Murray Evans, special correspondent
Oklahoma City —
After 15 years, Asher is back atop the world of small-school baseball.
With the coach who started the program’s proud tradition, Murl Bowen, watching from the stands at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, the second-ranked Indians rolled to a 7-0 win over No. 4 Leedey on Saturday afternoon to win the Class B title.
It was the 44th state baseball title for the Indians – 22 fall, 22 spring – but the first since fall 1998, which came just a couple of months after Bowen, who guided Asher for 39 years, suddenly retired during the middle of the season.
Things came full circle for the Indians on Saturday, as Bowen’s grandson, Cory Holman, started in right field and went 2-for-2 with a double, two RBIs, two walks and a run scored. Holman’s outing complemented that of pitcher Tanner Andrews, who threw a complete-game two-hitter and added a triple and two RBIs.
Current Asher players certainly were aware of the program’s history, but more recent frustrations were foremost in their minds – the Indians had reached three straight state finals before Saturday, only to lose each time.
“We’ve been here the last three years, and we just fell short,” Andrews said. “Today we didn’t. (People in Asher) expect a lot out of us, and I think we showed that today. We like that pressure. We say bring it on.”
Asher (28-6) won its first state title in 1963 under Bowen. A long string of players who passed through the program during his tenure were able to call themselves state champions – including current Asher coach Shane Coker, who played for the Indians in the late 1980s. Coker and his coaching staff were determined to return the program to glory this season.
“We’ve been so close for three seasons, and we’ve come up short in this game,” Coker said. “We knew coming into this year it was our year. It was going to be ours to lose. So with that mentality, we went hard all year long.”
After beating Hammon 6-2 in the first round and Lookeba-Sickles 7-4 in the semifinals, the Indians came out ready Saturday, scoring in each of the first three innings against Leedey (31-11).
Andrews’ first-inning sacrifice fly off Leedey starter Josh Harrel (5-4) scored Caleb Dubler, who walked to lead off the game. Hunter Fowler singled and scored on a single by Dubler in the second. In the third, Trucker Lee singled to left field to lead off and scored on Holman’s double. Holman later scored as part of a successful double steal, putting the Indians ahead 4-0.
Andrews’ triple to left field keyed a three-run sixth-inning outburst for Asher.
Meanwhile, the Bison struggled to get anything going against Andrews (10-3), who walked three and struck out eight batters. Leedey’s only hits were a first-inning single to left by Cadan Calaway and a sixth-inning bunt single by Harrel. The Bison never advanced a runner past second base.
“We have expected great things out of Tanner all year, and he has just time and time again provided them,” Coker said. “He just came out today and did his thing.”
In the seventh, Andrews retired the Bison in order, striking out C.J. Harrel and Blake Currier before coaxing a fly ball to center field from Cal Castle.
“I was ready to get it over with,” Andrews said.