Aaron Colen, Sports Editor, Aaron.Colen@chickashanews.com
EDMOND, Okla. —
Chickasha High School had a golden opportunity in the sixth inning of the 5A state quarterfinals game against Claremore on Tuesday night, but came up short when it counted.
Chickasha lost the game 6-3, ending the season for the No. 4 team in 5A with a record of 29-8.
"I'm not disappointed in our guys at all, I thought they battled hard and competed hard, never quit," head coach Brad Gore said. "We just ran into some good arms tonight."
The Chicks loaded the bases with no outs after Zebras' starting pitcher Jacob Teague walked Cade Morris and Lane Smith, and Brant Haile reached base on a fielding error.
Derek Sullivan drew another walk to score a run, and Chickasha was down 6-3 with the bases loaded, in prime position for a comeback.
That would be all for Teague, who went five innings and finished with eight strikeouts.
Junior Bryce Howe entered the game in relief, inheriting a tough situation with the bases loaded and nobody out. He got the job done, though.
Howe struck out three straight batters in the sixth inning, and struck out three of four batters he faced in the seventh, as Chickasha's season ended on a swing and a miss by Smith.
"He was just throwing it by us," Gore said. "He was throwing it hard and throwing it by us. And that was a big deflator for us. Sitting there with the bases loaded and no outs, the guy just comes in there and gets three strikeouts in a row."
The game didn't start out well for Chickasha. Gore sent out the team's No. 1 pitcher, Smith, as the starter.
Smith was coming off a dominant performance in the regional finals against Bishop McGuinness last Saturday.
He would last only a few batters against Claremore. He walked two batters and hit another before Gore took the ball out of his hands and gave it to Morris, who started in center field.
"He just didn't have it," Gore said of Smith. "When you're firing it all over the place and not throwing strikes, you've got to give your team a chance to make plays. I thought Cade and Blake did a really good job.
"The walks tonight just hurt us a little bit, mainly the lead-off walks, but both those guys came in and competed really hard," Gore said.
Morris gave up a two-run single to Isaac Hollihan, then struck out Andrew Byington and got Tyler Gagle to pop up to end the inning down 3-0.
Claremore scored one run each in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Chickasha scored two in the fourth and one in the sixth, but finished the game with only two hits, a single by Sullivan in the second inning and a double by Luke Dixon in the seventh.
"We battled, but those pitchers are just really good," Gore said. "We knew that coming down here, that we were going to have to play a low-scoring game. When we go out and give up three runs in the first inning, it was going to be tough to catch up. We get a couple and kind of get back in the game, and then they get one."
Morris pitched 4.1 innings before Gore subbed in Blake Burns, who finished the fifth inning and pitched the sixth inning. Burns allowed one hit and had one strikeout.
"It is what it is," Gore said. "I can't say enough about our guys. They competed hard and played hard, and it just wasn't meant to be."