By BEN JOHNSON
Tahlequah and Booker T. Washington combined for 115 plate appearances during Tuesday’s District 5A-3 showdown. The Tigers didn’t lead until the final one.
Booker T. Washington shortstop T.J. Scroggins booted a ground ball by Houston Glad, allowing Connor Mutzig to score from third base and bringing an extra-inning affair to a close after nearly three hours of roller coaster-type action.
The Tigers escaped with a 12-11 triumph and never led until the game’s final play.
“We were never ahead until the end, but we kept battling and kept showing character,” Tahlequah coach Nick Zodrow said. “That’s one thing we hadn’t shown all year.”
With the win, Tahlequah pulled a season — and two day — sweep of the Hornets. And like Monday’s 9-1 rout, the Tigers rode Stephen Wheeler’s right arm to victory.
Wheeler tossed a complete-game one-hitter in the first meeting between the two district foes. On Tuesday, Wheeler tossed three innings of perfect relief.
“He was tender and a little sore,” Zodrow said of Wheeler, who didn’t allow a base runner and struck out three during three innings of work. “But for him to be a bulldog and come out and give us three innings, and for him to go out there and compete without his best stuff, he did a great job.”
The Tigers (9-14, 5-6 5A-3) spent the whole game playing catch-up until Glad’s final at-bat.
Booker T. Washington tallied four runs in Tahlequah’s error-riddled second inning, and Tahlequah didn’t tie things up until it was a 6-6 game on Wheeler’s RBI single to right field in the sixth inning.
The Hornets (9-16, 4-7), though, went ahead again in the seventh inning after Grant Phillips’ RBI single capped off three straight singles with two outs. Darian Abram scored and the Hornets led 7-6 until Tahlequah sent the game into extra innings, thanks to a fielding error by Phillips in the home half of the seventh inning.
Unfazed by another Tahlequah comeback, Booker T. Washington plated four more runs in the eighth inning, highlighted by two Tahlequah errors and a sacrifice squeeze by Evan Skaggs, which scored the go-ahead run for the Hornets at the time.
The Tigers responded with a four-run frame of their own. Glad, Colby Brittain, Lane Cobb and Austin Riley all drove in runs to prolong the contest.
“We hit the ball well that inning and kept scratching and clawing,” said Zodrow, whose team totaled 18 hits in the game. “That’s what I’ve been looking for — some fight out of these guys.”
After a pair of quick innings in the ninth and 10th, Booker T. Washington went down quietly in the 11th, allowing Mutzig to drill a one-out triple to right-center field for the Tigers. And after Jordan Blalock’s ground out, Glad brought the game to a screeching halt.
Tahlequah will play again Thursday when it takes on Keys (10 a.m.) and Sallisaw Central (4:45 p.m.) in the Tiger Classic. The tournament will continue on through Saturday with the title game at 7:30.