By BEN JOHNSON
Press Sports Editor
Tahlequah was all set to enjoy a day in the sun after what has already been a trying baseball season. Then, the Tigers faltered in the late-afternoon heat.
Behind Emilio Arizpe’s go-ahead, two-run single in the sixth, Miami (Okla.) rallied to hand Tahlequah yet another tough defeat.
“It's frustrating,” said Tahlequah coach Nick Zodrow after his team's 5-2 loss to the Wardogs. “That’s been the story of the season.”
The Wardogs (10-12), of Class 4A, took advantage of some defensive gaffes by the Tigers in the sixth to snap a two-game losing streak.
After Miami’s Tyler Perry singled to center and Christian Bridendoff walked with one out in the sixth, the Tigers made a pitching change and pulled Colin Scarsdale off the mound after throwing 108 pitches. Zack Thornton took the ball in relief and was the victim of some shoddy defense behind him.
During Kyle Jolley's at-bat, Thornton’s 1-1 pitch got away from catcher Lane Cobb, and Perry and Bridendoff attempted to move up a base. Cobb corralled the ball and tossed to Connor Mutzig at third. But instead of laying down a tag on Perry, Mutzig promptly threw to second, allowing both Wardog runners to safely move up 90 feet.
Arizpe followed with a clutch single to center that sent a relatively quiet Miami dugout into an uproar.
“It should have been the second out and then we could have gotten out of the inning,” an exasperated Zodrow said. “Then they get back-to-back singles to score three runs. It's tough.”
The second of the one-baggers came from senior second baseman Brock Fletcher, who plated Arizpe from second to pad the Wardogs lead to three. Fletcher, Arizpe and Keaton Blevins were the three Miami players to tally RBI's in the contest.
Through four innings, the Tigers, who fell to 1-4 at home, hung tough and even owned a 2-1 advantage, thanks to Sam Hoag’s RBI single to left, which scored Dakota Boydston in the third.
But Hoag – who was one of five Tiger players to commit an error – set up Miami's scoring opportunity in the fifth, which the Wardogs cashed in on Blevins' RBI groundout to first. With one out, Hoag’s wild throw to first allow Matt Walker to reach base and Walker, eventually, scored after advancing to third on a failed pick-off attempt and a balk by Scarsdale.
Scarsdale ended up being the tough-luck loser after going 5 1/3 innings, giving up two hits, which led to four runs – two of which were unearned. The junior hurler also recorded seven strikeouts while issuing four walks.
“Even though he didn't have his beat stuff, he competed,” said Zodrow, whose team fell to 2-18 overall. “He pitched well enough to win.”
Zodrow noticed his team also had some extra enthusiasm while Scarsdale was on the hill.
“Anytime Colin is on the bump, we have some fight,” said the first-year coach. “But when someone else takes the bump, they just aren't very comfortable.”
Both teams left their share of runners on base throughout the contest. Both clubs stranded seven runners with Miami leaving five runners in scoring position. The Tigers left four runners in prime scoring position.
“I don’t know how many guys we left on the base,” Zodrow said. “But in key situations, we couldn't come up with a big hit.”
Down the stretch, Walker outdueled Thornton and Dillon Lemasters on the mound. Thornton and Lemasters – in relief of Scarsdale –threw 1 2/3 innings while only giving up one earned run and two hits.
But Walker, who climbed back to .500 by improving his record to 4-4, went from start to finish for the Wardogs. The 6-foot-4, right-handed sophomore gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits. He also struck out seven Tigers compared to only two base on balls.
But despite Walker’s impressive stat line, Zodrow said his club should have outlasted the Wardogs, who entered the game 1-5 on the road.
“We should beat that team,” said Zodrow, whose team will return to the field Thursday in the first round of the Coweta Tournament against Tulsa Hale at 11 a.m.