PRYOR, OK —
They took two very different paths to get there, but the 2013 editions of the Pryor and Salina baseball teams can add “State Tournament Qualifier” to their respective resumes.
The Tigers (24-11) took the blue-collar route, though they were in the driver's seat in their Class 5A regional after knocking off Collinsville Thursday and Grove Friday in come-from-behind wins to move a game away from the state tourney. Collinsville upset Grove Friday to set up the rematch with the Tigers on Saturday.
The scrappy Cardinals took the first game from Pryor, 12-7, as the Cardinals opened up a 12-3 lead after four innings to threaten a run-rule. Conley Ledoux and Nate Wolfe shared the brunt of the damage on the mound, combining to allow all 13 hits and seven runs. Bradley Nixon and Kelvin Grubbs each allowed at least two runs on walks.
The Tigers, buoyed by Zack Hammock’s 3-for-3 game at the plate, struck back in the fifth with four runs but fell short, and the Cardinals forced a decisive final game.
Backed against the wall for the first time this postseason, the Tigers responded with yet another come-from-behind win, this time a 9-3 regional-clinching decision.
Centerfielder Brennon Barth went 2-for-2 with an RBI in the closer. Senior second-baseman Casey Holloway went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, and Nixon, Wolfe, Grubbs and Anthony Martinez each batted in runners.
Holloway stole two more bases to push his total on the year to 39.
Hammock pitched another complete game for the Tigers to improve to 10-2.
Pryor, down 3-1 after the top of the fourth inning, tied the contest at 3-all in the bottom of the fourth before exploding for five runs in the fifth.
The Tigers added a security run in the sixth before Hammock retired the final batter in the top of the sixth, and the Tigers rushed the field to celebrate their return to the state championship tournament.
Salina (25-9) will also be headed back to the west side of the state for the 3A championship, but their road was paved a little straighter than Pryor’s.
The Wildcats didn’t allow a single run in their three-game tourney stretch at Kellyville over the weekend, dropping Prague (5-0), No. 10 Henryetta (7-0) and Prague again (12-0) to emphatically cement their spot beside seven other teams this weekend in Edmond.
The Wildcats know the competition will be tougher from here on out, starting with their first-round foe. Due to rain postponing several tournaments throughout the state, Salina does not know yet who, when or where they will play on Thursday but they do know it will be a three-game grind if they want to add some more hardware to the school’s trophy case.
Pryor, meanwhile, draws Class 5A’s No. 2 team, Carl Albert, on Day 1 of the state tournament. The Tigers and Titans (32-3) will battle at Edmond Santa Fe High School at 4 p.m. Thursday. The winner will advance to play the Deer Creek-Noble winnerin a Friday semifinal.
On the other side of the bracket, Guthrie and Coweta will tangle at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, while Chickasha and Claremore are set to tussle in the late game at 6:30 p.m.
All 5A tournament games will be played at Edmond Santa Fe.