By KEVIN HENRY
COWETA — In a game that had just about everything, including late-inning drama, it was a familiar foe that once again wreaked havoc on the Tahlequah Tigers.
Tahlequah committed six errors on Tuesday, spoiling a solid pitching performance from Stephen Wheeler, as the Tigers fell at Coweta 6-5 in eight innings.
Wheeler threw all eight innings and struck out eight on Tuesday, allowing just six hits in a masterful performance against Tahlequah’s District 5A-3 foe. The right-hander, however, couldn’t overcome numerous defensive lapses, including an eighth-inning error that would eventually turn into the game-winning run.
“He threw it well and allowed only a couple of earned runs,” said Tahlequah head coach Nick Zodrow. “Every time he’s been out on the mound, he’s done well. The problem isn’t our pitching. It’s our defense. We have to get right on defense.”
The errors have been a common theme for Tahlequah lately as the Tigers (6-9, 3-4 District 5A-3) have committed 30 errors in their last five games.
“We fought and competed today, but we had put our own backs against the wall by committing errors,” Zodrow said. “We had timely hitting. We had good pitching. We just didn’t have good defense.”
Part of that timely hitting came in an almost miraculous comeback in the seventh inning, as Tahlequah scored three times to force extra frames.
Austin Riley opened the inning with a single up the middle, then moved to second on a ground out. Wheeler then reached on a throwing error after striking out as Riley scooted home to pull Tahlequah within 4-3.
After reaching second on the error, Wheeler stole third and represented the game-tying run. One out later, Tahlequah was down to its final strike before Jordan Blalock slapped an RBI single to right to tie the game.
Wheeler scored twice on the day, including on a solo home run in the second inning that carried well beyond the left-field fence.
Blalock stole second, then Logan Lewis also showed some two-strike magic, belting an RBI single to right to score Blalock and give Tahlequah a 5-4 edge.
Lewis would be the only Tiger to have more than one hit on the day, pacing the Tahlequah offense with a 2-for-4 performance.
The lead, however, wouldn’t last long as Coweta responded in the bottom of the frame. Jakeem Johnson opened the inning with a single that bounced over Riley’s head. Johnson then stole second, moved to third on a ground out and tied the game on Ryan Clark’s sacrifice fly.
“The bad hop in the seventh inning has been the type of thing that has happened to us lately,” Zodrow said. “We fought hard and competed today and we have to stay positive.”
Wheeler would almost get out of the eighth inning, but pinch hitter Mason Banfield hit the first pitch he saw for a two-out RBI single up the middle to give Coweta the victory.
COWETA 6, TAHLEQUAH 5
Tahlequah 110 000 30 -- 5 6 6
Coweta 001 120 11 -- 6 6 2
Wheeler and Cobb; Gunter, Remington (7) and Remington, Honel (7). WP: Remington. LP: Wheeler. HR: Wheeler.