GROVE, OK —
Pryor is just one win away from a berth in the state baseball quarterfinals, thanks to a 10-3 win over the host Grove Ridgerunners Friday in a Class 5A regional tournament.
A chaotic fourth inning provided a big spark for the Tigers (23-10), and senior pitcher Zack Hammock calmed down after shaky fourth to close the game in emphatic fashion on an uncharacteristically chilly May afternoon.
Pryor, on the scoreboard as the home team, led 1-0 heading into the top of the fourth. Hammock beaned lead-off batter Ty Phillips before pitcher Gibson Russ belted a two-run shot to give Grove its only lead of the game, 2-1.
“The momentum turned on that two-run homer, but we came back and answered with a big inning,” Pryor head coach Gerald Osborne said.
“I sat down and cleared my head (after that inning),” Hammock said. “I knew my team was going to come back. I knew we had it in us. We’ve been through so much this year, and any situation that's been thrown at us, we’ve come through.”
The Tigers threatened to blow the game open in the second and third, but left five runners stranded before the bubble finally burst in the fourth inning.
Lead-off hitter Brennon Barth bunted a single to start the inning. Nate Wolfe struck out, but a single from Foster McCollough moved Barth to third and a Bradley Nixon single brought Barth home to knot the contest at 2. Kelvin Grubbs went down swinging for the second out, but then the Tigers really got going.
Casey Holloway took a base on balls and Anthony Martinez drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Tigers up 3-2, loading the bases again for power-hitting freshman Spencer Henson.
The lefthanded Russ put Henson in a 1-2 hole and was one good pitch away from ending the inning, but Henson worked back to a full count. Henson then blasted the 3-2 pitch to the gap in deep left-center, just out of reach of the diving Ridgerunner centerfielder for a double. Nixon, Holloway and Martinez all scored, making the score 6-2 in favor of the Tigers.
Hammock then walked, setting Brennon Barth up for an double that scored Henson. Grove finally got out of the miserable inning by tagging out Hammock’s courtesy runner trying to reach third on the double. The damage was done, however, and when the dust settled the Tigers had a commanding 7-2 lead.
Pryor, comfortably out front, added a trio of runs in the sixth on a passed ball, fielder’s choice and a McCollough double.
Hammock pitched all seven innings and didn’t allow another run until the seventh, no small feat considering the wintry weather. Hammock struck out three Ridgerunners and gave up nine hits.
“I threw a couple sliders to make sure it was working. The wind was helping my slider a lot, blowing across, so I was using that a little bit,” Hammock said.
In Thursday’s opener, Henson pitched two innings of shutout ball to preserve an 8-5 Tiger win over Collinsville.
Henson picked up the save, as Pryor scored the final seven runs of the game to advance to Friday’s contest with Grove.
After the Cardinals scored four runs in the bottom of the third to take a 4-1 lead, Osborne pulled starter Wolfe in favor of Grubbs. Grubbs (5-2) pitched through the fifth, allowing another run in the fourth inning to drop the Tigers in a 5-1 hole.
In the late innings, the Pryor bats lit up. The Tigers added a run in the top of the fifth to cut the lead to 5-2 before surging ahead in the sixth with four runs to take a 6-5 lead.
Henson took the mound in the bottom of the inning and no-hit the Cardinals the rest of the way. Pryor padded its lead with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh.
Hammock went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs and notched the Tigers’ only extra-base hit of the day, an RBI double.
Designated hitter Nixon had a pair of singles and brought home a run, while Barth singled twice with two RBIs. Wolfe and Holloway each batted in runs.
Pryor, still two losses from elimination, needs to win just one game against the winner of Friday’s Grove vs. Collinsville contest. That game is tentatively set for 1 p.m. Saturday. Should Pryor lose, the final elimination game will be played immediately after.
Pryor has a perfect 3-0 combined record against potential opponents Grove (22-11) and Collinsville (12-18) this season, though Osborne was quick to point out that is no indication of the future.
“Baseball, it’s day-to-day. Anything can happen on any given day,” Osborne said. “We’ve got to come out and keep playing the way we’ve been playing and let the chips fall where they may. We’re playing pretty well right now, and I know we’re going to show up and compete hard.
“If we keep playing like we have been, we’ll be fine.”