OKLAHOMA CITY —
Amber-Pocasset head baseball coach Cheyenne Graham had a short motivational speech for his team in the dugout after the fourth inning of the state semifinal game against Roff.
"Two words: Fort Cobb," Graham said to his team. "There's a lot of baseball left to be played."
The Panthers were leading the game 9-2 at the time, and those words served as a reminder to the veteran leaders on the team not to let off the gas.
"Two springs ago, we gave up a nine-run lead in the fifth game of a regional, and it's kind of haunted us and fueled us," Graham said. "It's just our reminder that it's still baseball."
The team took heed to their coach's words, and went on to beat the Roff Tigers 14-5 to advance to the state championship game, where they will face Rattan on Saturday afternoon for a shot at a state title.
"I'm not shocked that we made it this far," Graham said. "We always knew coming in that if we played well, we had a chance to win the whole thing."
The game was never really in doubt after that fourth inning, although Roff did manage four runs in the last two innings of the game; a last-ditch effort to climb out of the deficit Am-Po had put it in.
While the Panthers gave up the opportunity to end the game an inning early by run-rule, they still got the victory behind well-timed hits and a complete game by starting pitcher Trey Winfrey.
Winfrey allowed five runs on ten hits, striking out four batters. It wasn't always a lights-out performance, but he made the pitches he needed to and the defense made the plays when it needed them to get the win.
Chase Johnson was Amber-Pocasset's leading offensive performer. Johnson went 4-for-4 at the plate, and was intentionally walked once.
He finished the game with four RBIs, and nearly hit a home run in the second inning, hitting a ball off the outfield wall.
Ryan Cauthen went 1-for-3, but had two RBIs and was hit by a pitch once and walked once.
Denton Lowe had two RBIs on 2-for-4 hitting, and Josh Jackson and Jeff Jackson each had one RBI.
Graham said the patience and discipline of the Amber-Pocasset hitters is what allowed them to have so much success in the game, and throughout the season.
"We swing the bat really well when we swing at strikes," Graham said. "It's been our goal this season to get in pitch counts. If we can't barrel one early, then we force them to throw pitches."
Graham said this kind of success in the state tournament is something he had personally been looking forward to for several years.
"For the last several years, I've driven up here and watched the state tournament as a coach and thought 'you know, one of these days I really hope I can be there'," Graham said. "Everything we've worked for is coming up to Saturday,
"These kids, nothing they do shocks me. They work hard, and put the time in. A bunch of good young men that are putting it all together."
The class A state championship game will be played at Palmer Field in Dolese Park in Oklahoma City on Saturday, May 5 at 12 p.m.