By BEN JOHNSON
It was a game that had early March written all over it. Keys and Class 3A No. 16 Sequoyah combined for eight errors, 10 walks and seven hit batsmen.
Neither team was crisp, but Keys found a way to prevail, knocking off its Cherokee County rival 12-8 on Friday afternoon at Sequoyah’s home ballpark.
“We’re not pretty, and sometimes we’re going to have to take some ugly wins,” Keys coach Calvin Klugh said. “We got an ugly win. We’ll take it, move on down the road and try and get better.”
Of Keys’ 45 plate appearances, only six resulted in strikeouts — and only two of those came after the third inning.
“We put the ball in play when we needed to, and we called a couple of suicide bunts and got the ball down when we’re supposed to,” Klugh said. “...As long as we have nine guys going up there and hacking and getting after it, we’ll just keep working.”
Keys, after trading leads with Sequoyah all day, took the lead for good with a three-run rally in the sixth inning. The Cougars — without recording a hit in the inning — made Sequoyah pay for two hit batsmen, one walk and two errors — both on Sequoyah third baseman Wyatt McClure.
Trailing 7-6, Keys went ahead on Jesse Haeberle’s ground ball to McClure, who pegged Austin Tarver in the back with his throw to home plate. The ball ricocheted off Tarver’s back, allowing Tarver to score the tying run and Tyler Blankenship to take the lead when he slid home safely before Sequoyah pitcher Sheldon Wesley could receive a throw from catcher Willie Tiger.
“If we’re not getting a good jump off of third base and hustling to the plate, we don’t cut that angle down where they hit us in the back,” said Klugh, whose team tacked on a third run in the sixth inning when Micah Allison scored on a wild pitch. “...You have to give us credit on that, too.”
It was a day McClure would like to forget with three errors and an 0-for-3 effort at the plate.
“Wyatt hasn’t played in two years,” Sequoyah coach Jeff Turtle said. “And we have to get a catcher who will step up and set up in front of the plate, instead on it or behind it to give Wyatt a better angle there.”
Once Keys took the lead, it piled on in the seventh inning. A lead-off triple by Dillon Stratton began the Cougars’ three-run assault, which yielded a RBI double by Tarver and a two-run single by Rylan Davenport, who posted a team-high three runs batted in.
“It feels good,” said Allison, who started at first base for Keys before logging 3 2/3 innings of valuable relief. “I’ve been playing for three years and this is my junior year, and we’ve never beaten Sequoyah. This is our first year under a new coach, and this is a great win.”
In 2012, Sequoyah thumped Keys, 9-1, in an early April showdown. This year it was different, thanks to Allison’s effort on the mound.
After Hazen Williams was touched up for five runs (three earned) on four hits in 2 1/3 innings of work, Allison entered and kept the Indians’ offense off balance for the most part.
“Micah is a reverse pitcher; he throws his curveball for strikes and then he’ll sneak his fastball in there,” Klugh said of Allison, who issued three runs (two earned) while toeing the rubber. “Most people throw their fastball and try to sneak a curveball in there, but he’s just the opposite. It was effective, and it was especially effective against their 1-, 2- and 3-hole hitters.”
The Indians, rallying from a 6-5 deficit, recorded two runs off of Allison in the fifth frame on back-to-back doubles by Ryan Helsley and Elijah Tucker, with an error on Blankenship that allowed Tucker to score later.
Helsley, who finished the game 3 for 3 (a single short of the cycle) with three runs scored and two runs batted in, also blasted a solo home run off of Allison in the seventh inning.
But that’s all the damage the Indians would inflict on Allison.
Despite only recording eight hits as a team, Keys’ lineup was more opportunistic than Sequoyah. Nearly every player in the Cougars’ batting order either recorded a hit, scored a run or drove a run in. For Sequoyah, its Nos. 1 through 5 hitters combined for six hits, eight runs scored and seven runs batted in, while the lower half of the order contributed only one hits in 14 plate appearances.
Wesley was saddled with the loss for Sequoyah after laboring through three innings of relief.
“Sheldon came in and threw strikes, we just have to play defense behind him,” Turtle said of Wesley, who gave up six runs (three earned) on four hits and a walk. Zach Parish started the game for Sequoyah, lasting only four innings after allowing six runs (five earned) on four hits and eight walks.
“I told them we have to keep our heads up because it’s only the first game,” Turtle said. “But we have to get better.”
Keys, Sequoyah fall on Saturday
On Saturday, Keys lost 8-1 at Miami to fall to 2-5 on the season.
Sequoyah dropped a pair of games Saturday to Spiro (8-2) and Claremore-Sequoyah (13-2) at the Vian festival. The Indians are now 0-3 this season.
Keys will be at Catoosa on Monday at 4 p.m. while Sequoyah will host Oktaha on the same day at 1 p.m.
Follow me @BenJohnsonTDP