By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — With two more wins Tuesday, Texas guaranteed itself a spot in the Jr. Sunbelt Classic tournament championship Wednesday in McAlester.
Tennessee swept its games Tuesday to put itself one win away from that second spot in the championship.
Oklahoma Gold and Oklahoma Blue can at best play for third and seventh, respectively. But both teams still slugged it out in the annual Gold-Blue game, putting the finishing touch on a busy Day 5.
Texas 9, Canada 0 (5 innings)
Texas pitcher Karan Patel came into Tuesday’s game against Canada having thrown just one prior inning the entire tournament.
With plenty of pitches left in his arm, Patel spun a gem for Texas.
Patel pitched a five-inning no-hitter, helping Texas run-rule Canada 9-0 in five innings at Mike Deak Field in McAlester.
“For him to come back from what he did the first time, I can’t say enough good things about him,” Texas coach Lou Kosanovich said of Patel.
“We had to get him out there. ... He has to get his mechanics down, and he did.”
Mixing a fastball in the mid 80s with offspeed pitches about eight miles per hour slower, Patel dominated Canada’s hitters early in the game. He retired the first 10 he faced until giving up a full-count walk to Jake Foden with one out in the bottom of the fourth.
Foden got to second when first baseman Dillon Duarte couldn’t handle Patel’s pickoff throw, but Patel came back to strike out Elliott Curtis and Ashton Roy looking to get out of the inning.
Patel went on to strike out Canada’s first two hitters in the bottom of the fifth, though a dropped third strike allowed Matthew Bondy to reach to lead off the inning. Patel then got Joseph Moher got to ground out to second, with Duarte tagging Moher on the shoulder after the throw to first pulled Duarte off the bag.
Texas third baseman Nate Miranda couldn’t field a grounder from Austin Gomez to put two runners on with two outs, but Patel struck out Grant Okawa swinging to end the inning and the game. Patel finished with eight strikeouts, no hits, no walks and no hit-by-pitches in five innings.
“I tried to throw my fastball more than throw my off-speed, because I threw it by them the first inning,” Patel said. “I didn’t want to speed up their bats, so I just kept throwing fastballs until one of them fouled it off.”
While Patel’s pitching kept Canada guessing the entire game, Texas’ hitters had no problems solving Canada starting pitcher Kevin Hillsdon. Texas scored in each of its first four innings, getting three runs in the top of the second.
Isaac Garland singled up the middle with one out in the top of the second for Texas, then Ivan Vera singled to left. A throwing error by Hillsdon led to one run and Vera at third, then Vera scored on Miranda’s sacrifice fly to center field.
Jacob Walker then drilled a pitch down the third base line, driving in Josh Van Gelder for a 4-0 lead and giving Walker enough time to get to third on a stand-up triple.
“It’s a learning experience for them,” Canada coach Dean Dicenzo said. “They come down to learn, they take it back to our club teams that they play for, and they try to apply it then.
“Back home, some of the mistakes that we make on the field don’t hurt us. But down here, as you can tell, they kill you. So it’s a learning experience for the kids.”
Texas tacked on three more runs in the top of the third, with Dan Priwin drawing a one-out walk and stealing second base. Vera stroked a double to center field for his second hit of the day, driving in Priwin.
Vera then stole second base and scored when catcher Drew Dickerson’s throw to third sailed into left field. Vera finished the game 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a run batted in.
“I was just hunting for my pitch, hunting for a fastball,” Vera said. “I get in the habit of chasing pitchers’ pitches, and took an approach of hunting for my fastball. That’s what I got, so I swung at it.”
Van Gelder later drew a walk and scored on Miranda’s double to left for a 7-0 lead in the third. Luken Baker’s double and Garland’s sacrifice fly drove in two more Texas runs in the top of the fourth.
Oklahoma Gold 3, Oklahoma Blue 2
Needing a win to have a chance at playing for third, Oklahoma Gold turned to starting pitcher Ricky Ramirez.
And for the second time in the Sunbelt, Ramirez came up big.
Ramirez gave up just two runs and three hits in seven innings, helping Gold beat Blue 3-2 at Mike Deak Field.
Ramirez pitched his second complete game of the tournament, having shut out Arizona 3-0 on Friday.
“He did an outstanding job,” Gold coach Clint Littlejim said of Ramirez. “He really threw well on Friday against Arizona. Didn’t know how he would do today because he was only on three days’ rest, but he came back and threw outstanding. Didn’t quite have the command he did against Arizona, but he really threw well tonight and was the difference in the ballgame for us.”
Though he threw just one perfect inning against Blue — the bottom of the second — Ramirez never gave up the big play that might’ve turned momentum in Blue’s direction. Brady Melton drove in a Blue run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth and another with a groundout in the sixth, but Ramirez still held his opponents hitless with runners in scoring position.
With two runners on and two outs in the bottom of the first, Ramirez got Beau Meshell to ground out to first. With Dalton Wood on second and one out in the third, Ramirez got Tanner Bane and Aiden Doherty to ground out to strand Wood at third.
“When we’ve had the opportunities to get guys in scoring position, we just can’t get that crucial hit,” Blue coach Derek Collins said.
“That’s been kind of a theme for us.”
With two runners on with no outs in the sixth, Ramirez got Meshell to ground one back to the mound for a fielder’s choice at third. Gold third baseman Gabe Littlejim then overthrew first base trying for the double play, allowing Logan Carter and Meshell to get to third and second, respectively.
That set up Melton’s RBI groundout, which cut Gold’s lead to 3-2. But with the tying run on third, Ramirez needed just one pitch to get pinch-hitter Brice Smith to fly out to left to get out of the inning.
Ramirez gave up a one-out walk to Dalton Compton in the bottom of the seventh, but got Wood to fly out to center. Ramirez then struck out Bane for the third time to finish the game.
Ramirez allowed two runs — one earned — on three hits, two walks, a hit-by-pitch and seven strikeouts in seven innings.
“I just mix up my velocity,” Ramirez said. “I’ll throw hard a couple of pitches, then I just change up the pitch-speed.”
Blue starting pitcher Caleb Seward also went seven innings, matching Ramirez pitch for pitch in the later innings. But Collin Morris drew a leadoff walk for Gold in the first, then Jason Long beat out an infield single.
Hunter Southerland’s single to right scored Morris, then Gabe Littlejim’s groundout to shortstop scored Long for a 2-0 Gold lead. Gold went up 3-0 in the fourth when Gabe walked and Drake Norton singled to center.
Blue second baseman Paul Kropf couldn’t handle Austin Simpson’s grounder, leading to a run on the error.
“For this tournament, we have done well when we’ve scored early,” Coach Littlejim said. “We scored early today. We scored early against Arizona and Mississippi, whenever we played them. So the key for us has been getting on top and playing with the lead. We haven’t done well whenever we’ve been behind.”
McAlester’s Zach Baugh had two singles for Gold, as did Norton, the two players accounting for four of Gold’s six total hits. For Blue, Doherty and Mason Hightower both hit doubles, and Wood beat out an infield single in the bottom of the first.
“His breaking ball was, I mean, about average,” Baugh said of Seward. “I could see it out of his hands, and it wasn’t above-average, so I just took advantage of it. It’s Oklahoma Blue. It’s our rivals, so we always have to scrap and fight.”
Seward took the loss, giving up three runs — two earned — on six hits, three walks and eight strikeouts in seven innings.
One pitch from Ramirez hit Hightower in the helmet and ricocheted off Hightower’s nose in the bottom of the sixth. Hightower immediately left the game and later left the field to seek what Collins called “precautionary” medical attention.
All Day 5 scores:
• At Eastern Oklahoma State College, Wilburton:
Georgia 6, Arizona 3
Tennessee 7, Arizona 2
Georgia 8, Oklahoma Blue 0
Tennessee 6, Colorado 3
Mississippi 7, Missouri 5
• At Mike Deak Field, McAlester:
Colorado 10, Oklahoma Blue 1
Mississippi 12, Canada 3
Texas 5, Colorado 0
Missouri 13, Oklahoma Gold 8 (8 innings)
Texas 9, Canada 0 (5 innings)
Oklahoma Gold 3, Oklahoma Blue 2
Current standings (tiebreakers decided by head-to-head wins):
|4) Oklahoma Gold||4-3|
|9) Oklahoma Blue||2-6|
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.