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Blanchard king of 4A jungle

May 19, 2019 - 00:00
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Lions topple KHS in state semis en route to perfect season

  • Article Image Alt Text
    KINGFISHER JUNIOR center fielder Clayton Abercrombie, above, makes a sliding catch during Tuesday’s 7-4 loss to Blanchard in the Class 4A semifinals. [Photo by Russell Stitt/ ]
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Below, senior Zach Goodwin delivers a pitch. He threw 3 2/3 innings of relief. [Photo by Russell Stitt/ ]
  • Article Image Alt Text
    CADE STEPHENSON heads toward third base during Kingfisher’s semifinal contest. [Photo by Russell Stitt/ ]

It took more than six innings, but the Kingfisher lineup finally started to get to Ty VanMeter.

But, like every other team that’s faced Blanchard this season, the surge came too late and it wasn’t quite enough.

The best season in Kingfisher High School baseball history ended late Tuesday afternoon as Blanchard held off a seventh-inning rally to prevail 7-4 in the Class 4A semifinals at Edmond Santa Fe High School.

The Lions went on to defeat Harrah 14-5 Wednesday in Norman to complete a 39-0 season with the state championship.

“They’re a complete team,” KHS coach Stan Blundell said of Blanchard. “You can’t make too many mistakes and have a chance to beat them.”

Despite a handful of miscues - some recorded as errors and others not - the Jackets had just that: A chance.

Down 7-1 entering the seventh inning, Kingfisher showed the resolve it displayed much of the season.

Senior Chase Gustafson, in a pinch-hit role, was able to reach base on an error by shortstop Callen Golloway, just beating his throw to first.

KHS had just five baserunners in the first six innings, but Gustafson was the first of five consecutive Jackets to reach base safely in the seventh.

Will Taylor, who re-entered to run for Gustafson, eventually scored on an RBI single by Tate Taylor.

Cade Stephenson, who reached on a fielder’s choice, made it 7-3 on a bases-loaded walk by Ian Daugherty.

That came with two outs, as did Keaton Abercrombie’s infield single to score Tate Taylor, bringing KHS within 7-4.

Even better for the Jackets, the bases were still juiced, meaning the go-ahead run was stepping to the plate.

That was enough for Blanchard coach Josh Raney to pull the plug on VanMeter, who was just one out shy of a complete game.

Tyler Henry came in from right field and eventually coaxed a ground ball to second base and end the game.

The loss gave KHS a 33-8 record for the year, breaking the school record for wins

(30) set two years ago.

This was the first time a Kingfisher team had advanced past the quarterfinal round at state.

“It was a really fun year,” Blundell said. “The kids really worked hard to make this happen.”

Blundell knew whomever Blanchard sent to the mound would be a formidable foe, but he was equally - if not more - worried about the Lions’ potent offense.

“It’s loaded from top to bottom,” he said. “It’s just tough to work through it three or four times.”

With that in mind, Blundell fully intended to use both Creighton Bugg and Zach Goodwin on the mound.

Bugg got the start and threw a flawless first inning before working himself out of a jam in the second.

But the Lions got their bats going in the third, beginning with nine-hole hitter Kale Miller, who would become a thorn in Kingfisher’s side.

Miller led off the frame with a single.

An error, a sacrifice fly and three hits later, Blanchard had a 3-0 lead and Goodwin was relieving Bugg.

Blanchard got the first three batters on base in the fourth, including a walk by Miller, and two of them scored when Bryce Madron’s fly ball resulted in a KHS error.

Erasing the 5-0 deficit, meanwhile, appeared unattainable for KHS through much of the game.

Keaton Abercrombie gave the Jackets their best chance to score early when he led off the second with a double and moved to third on his brother’s sacrifice bunt.

However, KHS couldn’t get him across.

The Jackets had just two more people reach base - Goodwin and Stephenson via walks in the third and fifth innings, respectively - over the next three innings.

The next best chance came in the sixth when Goodwin started with an infield single.

With two outs, his courtesy runner, Brandon Williams, was brought home by Keaton Abercrombie’s second hit of the game.

That gave KHS a glimmer of hope, but some of that was dashed in the bottom of the sixth.

Miller had a leadoff walk and made the score 6-1 on Jack Kiker’s RBI single.

Miller finished 1-for-1 with two walks and three runs scored.

“You can’t give them that kind of production at the very bottom of the lineup,” Blundell said.

Kiker later scored on a wild pitch to give Blanchard the six-run cushion.

It proved to be just enough.

Goodwin threw the final 3 2/3 innings and surrendered four runs, though only one was earned.

He struck out three and walked four.

Bugg gave up three runs, though only two were earned. He struck out one batter and surrendered five hits.

At the plate, Keaton Abercrombie had three of Kingfisher’s six hits and he also drove in two runs.

Goodwin was 2-for-3.

In two state tournament games, the senior was 5-for-7.

Callen Golloway, son of former University of Oklahoma baseball coach Sonny Golloway, went 2-for-4 and was the only Lion with multiple hits.

Game notes:

• The semifinal loss was the final game in a KHS uniform for Goodwin, Cole Crosswhite, Logan Rutledge, Gustafson, Cooper Covalt, Bugg, Williams and Caleb Osborn.

• In the four years many of them have been contributors, KHS went 108-42. They won 72 percent of their games during that stretch.

• That includes going 92-23 (.800) the last three seasons.

• This group was part of a team that set the school record for wins in 2017

(30) and then broke it this year (33).

• As a team, Kingfisher had a .332 batting average in 2019 and a .450 on-base percentage.

• The pitching staff had an earned-run average of 3.054. It gave up 159 runs in 261 innings, 114 of which were earned.

• KHS pitchers struck out 242 batters, walked 144 and hit 32 while giving up 236 hits.