By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — With each new inning, McAlester freshman starting pitcher Mason Ross got a little bit stronger.
And in the bottom of the seventh, Chad Meadows helped give Ross a much-deserved win.
Ross struck out 14, and Meadows’ grounder to deep shortstop scored Zach Baugh to give the Buffaloes a walk-off 5-4 win against the Pryor Tigers on Thursday at Mike Deak Field in McAlester.
“He, especially on the mound, does not handle himself like a freshman,” Buffs coach Justin Bond said of Ross. “He handles himself like a senior, a guy that wants the ball, wants to go win and to go compete, and knows how to do those things.”
Pryor beat McAlester 12-5 in Pryor on Friday to give the Buffs their first district loss, but McAlester still has a one-game lead over Pryor for second place in District 5A-4.
First- and second-place teams get to host regional tournaments.
Baugh led off the bottom of Thursday’s seventh inning with a single to center field, then Andrew McBride tried to sacrifice Baugh to second base with a bunt. The ball came off McBride’s bat with so much spin that second baseman Conley Ledoux hesitated before fielding it.
By the time Ledoux picked it up, McBride had already nearly reached first base for a single. Ledoux then sent his throw to first into foul territory, allowing Baugh to reach third on the error.
With no outs, Pryor brought in its infield to try to prevent Baugh from scoring on a grounder. Pryor reliever Gaige Mendivil worked the count to 2-2 against Meadows, but Meadows belted the fifth pitch of his at-bat towards Anthony Martinez at shortstop.
Martinez fielded the grounder and threw home, but Baugh slid under the tag of catcher Drew McCollough for the win. Meadows said it was the first walk-off play of his career.
“I was just looking for a pitch that I could put in play, not do too much with,” Meadows said.
“It was like a little middle, middle-in, kind of fastball.”
Ross picked up the win, striking out 14 in a seven-inning complete game in which he allowed no earned runs, walked four and gave up five hits. He retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced, including nine in a row from the fifth through the seventh innings.
“I started using my curveball a little bit more,” Ross said of his final three innings. “They were getting hold of the fastball a bit more than their first time through the lineup.”
Mendivil took the loss. He replaced Pryor starting pitcher Martinez after Grant Sontag had hit a pinch-hit leadoff double in the bottom of the sixth, getting Brandon Green to ground out to shortstop with the bases loaded to end the inning and preserve the 4-4 tie.
McAlester went up 3-0 in the bottom of the first, with Taylor Mullins leading off with a single and scoring two batters later on a triple by Dalton Wood. Green’s single to center scored Wood, then the Buffs loaded the bases on a single by Ross and a four-pitch walk by Baugh.
McBride then grounded into a fielder’s choice at home, but a passed ball allowed Ross to score for a 3-0 lead.
Defensive errors cost the Buffs their lead in the top of the fourth, with two Pryor runs scoring when Mullins fielded a two-out grounder by Nate Wolfe but threw the ball in front of the dirt at first base. Bradley Nixon later drove in two runs with a single to center that made it 4-3 Tigers.
The Buffs tied the game on McBride’s bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the fifth.
“It was two clubs who battled hard, and today was their day,” Pryor coach Gerald Osborne said.
“We start three freshman and four sophomores, and they play their guts out.”
Green led the Buffs with three hits, while Mullins and Baugh each had two. The bottom four hitters in McAlester’s lineup — Baugh, McBride, Meadows, Michael Hyden and Sontag, who pinch-hit for Hyden — got on base 10 times in 15 trips to the plate.
“For us to be effective ... it can’t be one guy every night,” Bond said. “It can’t be our three-hole, our leadoff guy, every night, because we need production everywhere. That’s why you have nine guys going to the plate. It’s not so they can do something else — it’s so they can help the team win in some way.”
Splitting its two games, McAlester moved to 13-12. Pryor moved to 14-10.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.