Chickasha beats Altus 4-1 in Regional finals, qualify for State Tournament.
Brad Gore's Fightin' Chick baseball team will be living on Tulsa time next week after winning their Regional and qualifying for the State Tournament to be held on the campus of Oral Roberts University.
Sixth-ranked Chickasha beat ninth-ranked Altus 4-1 under overcast skies Friday in front of a large and loud home crowd at Elliott Field. The Fightin’ Chicks lost the flip and were visitors again but hitting first has been their lucky charm lately, keeping them unbeaten throughout the tournament.
Senior Evan Blasingame got the start for Chickasha and faced the Bulldogs' fireballing senior Ben Hayes. Both pitchers dominated early, but Chickasha drew first blood in the third with two outs.
Nine-hole Blake Taylor ripped a Hayes fastball up the third base line for a double but was held at third on Swayne Parson's single to right rather than risk running on right fielder Bucky Buxton's who has a great arm and was playing very shallow.
Gore had other ideas and tried twice to run a delayed double steal. Altus didn't bite either time, but on the third try, Taylor broke for home as soon as catcher Chris Holt threw down to second. Shortstop Matt Meier made the quick return throw home, but Taylor's great jump and outside slide got him in just behind Holt's swipe tag. Parsons ended up on second and scored when Kennedy Winn hit a rope to the right field corner for a double and Chickasha took a 2-0 lead.
The tarps came back out as the top of the third ended and there was a 15-minute delay as some showers passed through. During the delay and during the Bulldog at-bat when play resumed, the Altus coaches worked feverishly on Hayes' pitching hand and arm, which was tightening up and apparently really bothering him.
When Altus went back on the field for the Chickasha fourth, Hayes went to first and first baseman Caleb Ellison came in to pitch.
Ellison retired six straight, four on strikeouts, and Altus got within one when Buxton led off the home fifth with a triple to the right field corner and scored on a wild pitch.
After Ellison struck out the side in the CHS sixth, Altus put runners on first and third with one out and with Hayes stepping in and Holt and Buxton waiting in the wings, it looked like the Dogs were going to do some serious damage. It wasn't to be, though, as Blasingame got Hayes to hit a sharp ground ball to second baseman Darren Green to start the inning-ending double play. Green flipped the ball to freshman shortstop Heath Wilda who made a perfect turn to first baseman B.J. Hartis.
Blasingame started off the seventh with a single to right then both Heath Wilda and B.J. Hartis reached trying to bunt him over. Both bunts were well-placed to the left side and Altus didn't cover the bag either time. Chickasha ended up with the bases full and no one out.
Buxton then made the play of the game with a highlight-film catch of Green's liner to the right-center field gap, running hard to his right and going horizontal to backhand it in the webbing in mid-air. Tylor Lee, running for Blasingame, tagged up from third for the third CHS run. Kyle King flied out deep to center for the second out, allowing Wilda to tag up and head to third. He later scored on a wild pitch. Then Hartis got hit by Taylor's grounder to short to end the inning.
Ellison gave the Altus fans a lift with a two-out single in the home seventh, but the celebration began as Winn camped out under Tyrese Flagg's fly ball to left and took it for the final out of the game.
Fittingly, Blasingame - the only senior on the team and the winning pitcher - accepted the Regional Championship trophy from CHS athletic Director Rick Lasseter and held it high for all to see. He struck out eight and only allowed the powerful Bulldog lineup four scattered hits for the biggest win and game of his career.
“I felt good and well-rested coming in,” he said after the game. “This was great but it was just one goal. Next week is what we've been working for.”
“Hats off to our kids,” Gore remarked. “We knew early that we had something special once we put everything together. The guys have worked so hard and I'm so proud of them. Hats off also to Altus. They battled really hard.”
The OSSAA will announce the state pairings and brackets on Monday and the Fightin’ Chicks anticipate playing round one on Tuesday, probably at Sand Springs High School. The Express-Star publish the information as soon as it's available on our web site at www.chickashanews.com.