SHAWNEE — The sixth-ranked Latta Panthers hung with Class 2A juggernaut Silo in the semifinals of the Class 2A State Tournament Friday at Memorial Park.
However, the Rebels made them pay for their critical mistakes and lack of offense in a 4-1 victory.
No. 1 Silo, which went on to edge Dale 4-3 in the 2A state title game, finished the spring unbeaten at 33-0. The Rebels will carry a 49-game win streak into the 2019 fall season. Silo’s last loss was a 2-1 setback to Byng last fall at the Latta Tournament.
Meanwhile, Latta’s run to the 2A spring final four is done at 20-10.
Latta committed three errors that led to three Silo unearned runs and left nine runners on base, including the bases loaded twice.
“You just have to score when you have opportunities, and you have to catch the dadgum ball. Outs have to be outs up here,” said Latta head coach Eddie Collins.
“If we don’t misplay two balls in center field, it could still be a 1-1 ballgame,” he continued. “We battled. We just didn’t make a few defensive plays that could have made a lot of difference in the game. When you’re in a tight game like that and you know runs are going to be at a premium anyway, you just have to make every play. You really do.”
Latta scored the first run of the game in the top of the first inning.
Leadoff hitter Rylan Reed walked to start the game and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jeron Johnston.
Silo hurler Korben Ford then walked Randis Gray and plunked DJ Van Atten to load the bases. Ford walked Tucker Abney with two outs to force in what would turn out to be Latta’s lone run of the game. He ended the inning by striking out two of the final three hitters he faced.
Latta kept getting more opportunities to score.
The Panthers stranded a runner at third base in the second inning; Latta had runners at first and second with one out in the third and loaded the bases with one out in the fifth.
“We had opportunities to score early,” Collins said. “It was a game we definitely had a chance in. Our left-hander (Reed, Latta’s starting pitcher) threw well enough to give us a chance.”
In the fifth, Gray singled and Van Atten and Dawson Dansby each walked to load the bases. That led veteran Silo head coach Billy Jack Bowen to send ace Carson Atwood to the mound. He got the Rebels out of that mess with a strikeout and a fly out by Creed Humphrey.
“That’s a tough order with (Atwood) coming in,” Collins said.
Silo reliever Jacob Lawless retired the final six Latta hitters in order to earn the save. Ford finished with eight strikeouts and five walks, Atwood had a walk and a strikeout, and Lawless brought the overall SHS strikeout total to 11 with a pair of his own.
“Those kids can throw it. Both of those first two (pitchers) tend to make you chase a little bit because of the stuff they have,” Collins said.
Reed countered with three strikeouts, and three walks and allowed just one earned run in 5.1 innings of work. Van Atten recorded the final two Silo outs of the game in relief.
Silo scored twice in the third inning on an RBI single by Dylan Turner and a balk call that Collins protested, to no avail.
The Rebels scored their final two runs in the fifth on an RBI double by Kash Walls and an RBI groundout by Lawless.
Latta had two of its errors in the Silo third inning and another miscue in the fifth frame.
The Panthers managed just three hits in the game by three different players. Gray went 1-for-3, Dansby went 1-for-2 and Byrd went 1-for-3.
Walls and Turner had two hits apiece in a six-hit Silo offense.
The loss still left Collins wondering what could have been.
“You have to capitalize when you have opportunities. I’m proud of my kids for the way we stayed in there and scrapped and battled ... but there comes a time ... when you have to go win one of those,” he said.
Latta ended the season winning nine of its last 11 ballgames.
“We put together some baseball that gives you the chance to come up here and compete. I would have loved to have done a few things we were doing so good the last month of the year that we weren’t able to do today,” Collins said.
“We got better as the season went. I hate it (to end) for my seniors, but I’m proud of them,” he said.