Jeff Cali Sports Editor email@example.com
No one could have seen this coming. Absolutely no one.
Maybe, just maybe, there is a fan or two that predicted the top-ranked Byng Pirates might have trouble making it out of the double-tough Class A Regional Tournament held at Stokes Field that also included No. 6 Latta, No. 11 Tushka and No. 20 Wister.
But I guarantee you no one on this earth could have imagined that Byng would score ZERO runs in 14 regional tournament innings. After Wister upset the Pirates 3-0 in the first round, Tushka blanked Byng 1-0 in a Friday afternoon elimination game.
I know I would have lost the farm if someone had bet me Byng would be scoreless throughout the regional. Heck, I would have thrown in the car, my wife and my left pinky finger when making that wager.
Poor Byng head coach Shawn Streater had to be feeling like he lost more than his farm. I know he and the entire Byng baseball program had great expectations this fall. Honestly, anything less than a state championship was going to be disappointing to the Pirates. You can imagine how devastating losing the opportunity to go compete for the coveted state title on your own home field must be.
Streater wasn’t going to take any chances against the Tigers on Friday. He sent ace hurler Reid Wall — who has verbally committed to Oklahoma State University — to the mound to take care of business. And he pretty much did. He misplaced one fastball, and Tushka six-hole hitter Trevar Lytle knocked it out of the ballpark with two outs in the bottom of the second inning.
Tushka managed just one more hit, a harmless two-out double by Taylor Mobbs in the bottom of the third inning (yes, Byng even lost the pregame coin flip). Wall then put the hammer down, retiring the final 10 Tuhska batters he faced. Wall struck out 11 in six innings of work while absorbing the hard-luck mound loss.
The Pirates simply couldn’t push a run across.
Byng managed just one hit off Tushka ace Jason Nutt but had base runners in five of the seven innings.
The Pirates had a golden opportunity to score in the top of the first when Andre Davis reached safely on a one-out error (he struck out, but the ball got by the catcher and Tushka first baseman Conner Brinkley couldn’t handle the throw to first). Gage Wall then got Byng’s only hit of the day — a single that advanced Davis all the way to third. Nutt then beaned Andrew Daniel to load the bases with still just one out.
Streater then decided to roll the dice and tried to tie the score with a squeeze bunt. But Ezekiel Lumley didn’t get the bunt down, and Davis was tagged out at home plate for out No. 2. Nutt then got out of the jam with one of his 13 strikeouts in the contest.
In the top of the sixth, Reid Wall walked and Davis was hit by a pitch with one out. But Reid was caught in a run down for second out and little brother Gage flied out to end the inning.
Darian Luper reached on a Tushka error with two outs in the top of the seventh but the game ended when leadoff man Hunter Capps flew out to center field.
In the loss to Wister, Byng allowed three runs in the first inning before holding the Wildcats scoreless the rest of the way. This time is was Gage Wall that suffered the hard-luck loss.
How mind-boggling were the back-to-back shutouts? Consider the following statistics:
• Byng had just outscored three Class A District opponents by a 34-0 count. Just ask Stonewall head coach Chuck Barton if he would have believed the Pirates wouldn’t score a run in the regional.
• Byng opened the season by outscoring its first seven opponents by a 64-1 margin.
• Byng had only been shut out once this fall, a 1-0 loss to Class B No. 2 Asher.
• The Pirates had NEVER surrendered three runs in an inning before Wister did it.
• The most runs Byng gave up in a game this fall was four in a 12-4 win over Moss.
• Byng had scored at least five runs in 20 of its first 25 games of the season.
Tushka went on to beat Wister 7-4 to earn the the regional consolation championship and a trip to the state tournament.
You’ve heard the age old saying “That’s why they play the games.” It certainly applies to a regional tournament where the No. 1 team in the state fails to score a run and makes an early exit. From 22-3 and rolling to 22-5 and reeling.
After the first-round loss to Wister, one frustrated fan who is close to the Byng baseball program said it looked like the Pirates would have to shut teams out to advance to the state tournament.
Maybe he's the only one that saw this coming.