TULSA — In a cruel twist of fate, Tahlequah's baseball season came to a close much like most of its games this season — in heartbreaking fashion.
After falling behind early, Tahlequah rallied only to fall short in the final inning of a 7-6 loss in the regional championship game against Class 5A No. 12 Coweta on Saturday afternoon.
A victory would have extended the Tigers' season to a winner-take-all regional title game on Monday. Instead, the loss to Coweta ends Tahlequah's season at 13-21.
"A little bit of a microcosm of our season," Tahlequah coach Nick Zodrow said. "As much as we did fight back, we were on the short end of a lot of close games."
Tahlequah lost to Coweta 6-5 on March 26, but the one that ended Tahlequah's season was infinitely more painful.
Coweta stormed out to a 2-0 lead after a 1/2 inning, and eventually that two-run advantage would morph into a 6-2 cushion after four frames.
After a scoreless fifth and sixth innings, things amped up in the seventh inning.
Coweta scored a run in the top half of the inning to extend its lead to 7-2. Tahlequah then went to work.
Logan Lewis and Houston Glad led off the inning with singles. Connor Mutzig followed with a walk, and Colby Brittain would follow with a two-run single, scoring Lewis and Glad.
Then after a walk to Austin Riley, a single by Ryan Sanders plated Mutzig. With the bases loaded, Ben Stacey followed by striking out looking, and then things went sideways for Tahlequah.
With one out and the sacks full of Tahlequah runners, Jordan Blalock hit a sacrifice fly to right field scoring Brittain, and all of a sudden Tahlequah was within a run of tying things up. Yet, Lane Cobb, who was on deck, never followed with a plate appearance.
Shortly after Brittain scored on the sacrifice fly, Riley was doubled off second base.
"We had the tying run 180 feet away," Zodrow said. "And I just knew Lane and Logan were going to come through for us."
Coweta will move on to the 5A state tournament while Tahlequah will prepare for the 2014 season.
"Our guys showed a lot of heart, a lot of heart and a lot of character," Zodrow said. "It was a fun game to be a part of. It was intense."
Tigers stay alive in regional play
When a season is a stake, a tripleheader is not that daunting for the Tahlequah Tigers baseball team.
With Thursday’s game against Tulsa Memorial suspended due to rain, the Tigers had to play three Friday to extend their season, starting with an 11 a.m. continuation of their opening game.
Despite holding Memorial to only one hit Friday morning, that hit, coupled with a two-out throwing error by second baseman Ben Stacey in the bottom of the seventh, was enough to give the Chargers a 2-1 win.
With the loss, the Tigers had to turn around and play Tulsa Nathan Hale 30 minutes later in an elimination game.
“It’s clichéd, but we had to find a way to put it behind us and take it one game at a time, even though it wasn’t easy,” coach Nick Zodrow said. “We had to do it and with the senior leadership helping us out, we found a way to make it happen.”
That “way” was a 13-1 run rule win over the Rangers.
After scoring one run in the bottom of the second off of a Ryan Sanders single, the Tigers blew the game open by batting around in both the third and fourth innings. Among the six extra base hits pounded out by the Tigers during the rout was an inside-the-park home run by Colby Brittain, assisted in part by a steep hill in center field. Brittain also had one of the Tigers’ three stolen bases.
Despite having a 12-man roster, the Rangers were forced to use three different pitchers in an effort to stem the onslaught.
With the win over Tulsa Nathan Hale (7-15), the Tigers earned a rematch with No. 8 Tulsa Memorial Friday evening after the Chargers dropped a game to Coweta. The Tigers avenged the loss from the morning session to eliminate Tulsa Memorial (19- 15) and bring on another potential doubleheader.
“Our backs are against the wall and we’re just playing for survival,” Zodrow said.
Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, Press special writer, contributed to this report.