By Matt Goisman
SHAWNEE — Every time the McAlester Buffaloes got a little closer, the Binger-Oney Bobcats did something to pull a little farther away.
The Bobcats took an early lead and never looked back, beating the Buffs 5-3 on Thursday at the Shawnee Festival at Ed Skelton Field.
The Bobcats won the Class A state baseball tournament in the fall.
Weston Kerlick led off the game with a fly into left field that Buffs outfielder Andrew McBride dropped. Kerlick scored two batters later on an infield single by Austin Green.
Kerlick then stole his way to third base. His aggressive base-running twice got him caught in rundowns between third and home, but both times he escaped back to third.
Legend Smith then blooped a single down the third base line to score Green and make it 2-0 Bobcats.
“We work at our base-running quite a bit,” Bobcats coach Reggie Willits said. “We spend a lot of time with it. That’s the kind of player that I was when I played, so we work on it a bunch. We’re going to be aggressive on the bases, and our goal is to be aggressive in everything we do.”
The Buffs got one run back in the bottom of the first, with Taylor Mullins leading off with an infield single. Mullins took second on a passed ball, then came home on a single to right by Brett Homer.
The Buffs loaded the bases on a walk and another single, this time by Mason Ross. Even a sacrifice fly by Grant Sontag would’ve tied the game and changed its complexion, but instead starting pitcher Green got Sontag to ground into a double play to end the inning and preserve the Bobcats lead.
Green went on to retire the next seven Buffs he faced. He gave up a one-out walk to Ross in the bottom of the fourth, but got Sontag to ground into another double play to end that inning.
Green said his success came from his curveball, on which he can change the speed without changing the angle.
“If I can get that down, it’s fine,” Green said.
Sontag’s double play came after the Bobcats had scored two more runs in the top of the fourth. Kerlick got to first on a fielder’s choice, stole second and came home on a single by Hunter King.
Green then lined one into right. Perhaps expecting King to stop at third base on the hard-hit single, Buffs right fielder Dalton Wood hesitated for several seconds before throwing the ball back to the infield.
King never stopped, however, and beat the throw home for a 4-1 Bobcats lead.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot by giving them one more run,” Buffs coach Justin Bond said.
“We just didn’t do enough behind (starting pitcher Mullins) necessarily, and we didn’t do enough offensively to put ourselves in a position to win.”
Buffs nine-hole hitter Chase Hass scored on an error in the bottom of the fifth, but the Bobcats answered with a run on a wild pitch in the top of the sixth. Ross’ sacrifice fly made it 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth, then Ross struck out the side in the top of the seventh.
The Buffs needed two to get on base in the bottom of the seventh to get Wood back into the batter’s box. Wood’s triple, easily the Buffs’ hardest hit of the night, had set up their sixth-inning run.
Both Chad Meadows and Hass had chances to get on, working their counts to 3-1. But Green threw 3-1 strikes to both hitters, then struck them out.
Mullins reached on a two-out hit-by-pitch, but Green then got Homer to ground out to second to end the game and leave Wood in the on-deck circle.
“He has more guts than any kid that you’ll ever see,” Willits said of Green. “When we won the state tournament in the fall, he won all three games on the mound for us.”
The Buffs also lost 4-3 to Bishop McGuinness on Friday in Shawnee, falling to 5-3 overall. Binger-Oney, the No. 3 team in Class A, beat Lawton MacArthur 11-3 on Thursday and improved to 3-3.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.