By BEN JOHNSON
Things were looking up for Tahlequah on Friday. The Tigers disposed of a three-run deficit, took a one-run lead and did so on triple that Lane Cobb legged out.
However, just like the last two weeks have gone for the Tigers, things went awry.
Class 5A No. 17 Collinsville came from behind and scored two runs in the top of the fifth inning to get past Tahlequah, 5-4, at an overcast Tiger Field.
For 5A No. 15 Tahlequah, it was its second straight one-run loss in district play while falling to 6-10 overall and 3-5 in District 5A-3.
“We’ve got to find a way to start winning those games,” Tahlequah coach Nick Zodrow said. “...We cut down the errors and made some plays, but when we did make errors they hurt. And we left too many guys on base.”
The Cardinals (6-6, 4-3) capitalized in the fifth when Brayden Varner led off and was hit by a pitch. Marcus Tillman (running for Varner) followed by advancing all the way to third base on Stanley Sallee’s sacrifice bunt between third base and the pitching mound. That set up Tillman to score the tying run on Wyatt Jordan’s grounder to second base, which was booted by Tahlequah’s Stephen Wheeler, allowing Jordan to reach base.
Then, after Jordan stole second base, Jacob Findley delivered a go-ahead double to left-center field, which brought Jordan in to score.
“Big hit by him,” said Collinsville coach Tony Reeder, whose team plated two runs in the first inning and one in the second to get things started. “He’s been starting the last three or four ball games, and he’s been in the lead-off spot and he’s swung it well. He’s hitting the ball hard.”
From there, the Cardinals rode the right arm of Zach Guest. The 6-foot-1 junior right-hander recorded three scoreless innings on the mound to pick up the victory, and the Tigers never advanced a runner past first base during that time.
“That’s (Guest’s) fourth time on the bump,” said Reeder, who received four innings of work combined between Craig Blevins and Sallee on the mound before Guest took over. “The first two times, he didn’t make it of the inning; and the last two times, he’s been in big, tough situations and he’s gone 3 2/3 innings and thrown extremely well.”
Collinsville’s two-run rally came after Tahlequah had posted four unanswered runs in the third and fourth frames. The Tigers used RBI walks by Houston Glad and Colby Brittain and a run-scoring single by Austin Riley to tie the game at 3 in the third. Then, the Tigers went on top with Lane Cobb’s RBI triple to left field, which scored Logan Lewis from second base.
“The thing that we’ve struggled with is the two-out RBI hits with guys in scoring position,” said Zodrow, whose team stranded runners on base and three in scoring position in the game. “We’ve got to come up with those big, clutch hits if we’re going to flip this around.”
But much like Coweta did earlier in the week, Collinsville had the last laugh and sent the Tigers further down the 5A-3 totem pole. By the end of the weekend, the Tigers were looking up at Claremore, Grove, Booker T. Washington, Coweta and Collinsville in the district standings.
“We’re just trying to play better baseball now,” Zodrow said. “I’m not worried or thinking about the district as far as hosting or doing anything like that [during regionals]. We’ve got to worry about getting ourselves right.”
Saddled with the pitching loss for Tahlequah was Riley, who logged five innings of work. During that time, Riley gave up five runs (three earned) on five hits. He also issued seven walks to go along with seven strikeouts.
Tahlequah and Collinsville will conclude their two-game set Monday at Collinsville at 5 p.m.
Collinsville 5, Tahlequah 4
Cville 210 020 0 — 5 6 0
Tah 003 100 0 — 4 7 2
Craig Blevins, Stanley Sallee (3), Zach Guest (5) and Brayden Varner. Austin Riley, Ryan Sanders (5) and Lane Cobb. WP: Guest. LP: Riley.