By Mike Tupa
BARNSDALL — Oklahoma Union needed just three outs late Saturday afternoon to wrap up third place in the Barnsdall high school baseball tournament.
But, the OUHS Cougars made two errors to open the door for an amazing rally by the Caney Valley Trojans.
Caney Valley crossed home plate four times in the bottom of the sixth to knock off the Cougars, 7-6, under a fickle sky that couldn’t make up its mind whether to be sunny or overcast.
The game followed that pattern also — each team displayed moments of shining quality or cloudy miscues.
It all came down to Seth Nelson’s stick.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, the right-handed hitting Nelson stepped to the plate for Caney Valley, which trailed by one run, 6-5. Courtesy runner Britton Monday stood on third and veteran warrior Erick McLaughlin was on first.
In what turned out to be a crucial decision, Caney Valley coach Shayne Cramer gave the ‘go’ sign to McLaughlin to steal second.
He pilfered the bag on the first pitch — a curve ball for a strike — to Nelson.
With runners now on second and third, Nelson waited for the next pitch. He smashed a hanging breaking ball for a proton-powered rocket to centerfield.
Monday dashed home for the tying run and McLaughlin tore toward third base, the feet at the end of his long legs churning up dust, while deep in the outfield Oklahoma Union fielded the ball.
Cramer decided to send McLaughlin home on the play, while Oklahoma Union began its relay back to the infield. The throw was just to the right of home plate and Oklahoma Union catcher Jace Bottoms had to slide over to corral the ball.
Meanwhile, McLaughlin went into a foot-first slide to the plate. Bottoms did a valiant job of pouncing back and trying to administer the game-saving tag. But, the umpire ruled McLaughlin safe for the contest-winning run.
That was the only time Caney Valley led.
Caney Valley and Oklahoma Union starting pitchers Luke Lakey (CV) and Dally Ellis (OU) dueled to a scoreless tie through the early stages of the game.
In the bottom of the second, Ellis struck out a batter on three-straight pitches to leave a runner stranded in scoring position.
Lakey retired the side in order in the top of the third, including a slider that a batter chopped at for strike three.
Caney Valley left two runners standing in the bottom of the third as the score remained, 0-0.
But, Oklahoma Union then struck.
Ellis blasted a RBI double — and later scored on an infield error — to power the Cougars to a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth.
The Trojans produced a partial answer in the bottom of the fourth — Thatcher McIntosh drew leadoff walk and then scored on Trent Gagan’s streaking double to the right field corner.
But, OUHS pitcher Ellis retired the next three batters to leave Gagan stranded on the third and the Cougars still in the lead, 2-1.
The Cougars then tried another strategy — small ball. During a long stretch, they laid down bunt after bunt after bunt — and it worked for the most part.
They tacked on another run in the top of the fifth — aided by two errors — to make it a 3-1 score.
But, Caney Valley led off the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back singles, which set the stage for a two-run Texas Leaguer by McIntosh — the ball hitting the ground in right field, between the right fielder and the second baseman, to tie the score, 3-3.
In the top of the sixth, Oklahoma Union’s Logan Key led off and reached base on an error to trigger a three-run uprising.
The Trojans made an error on a potential inning-ending doubleplay that prolonged the Cougar rally. Bottoms singled home the final run, which boosted OUHS to a seemingly safe 6-3 lead, as time was running out.
However, the Trojans finally got it going.
Dylan Anguiano led off with a walk, followed by a scoop single to the left-center fence by Colton Lewis.
With runners on third and second and no outs, the Cougars made a pitching change.
The new hurler gave up a walk to the next batter, Tanner Sellers, to load the bags. But, the next Caney Valley batter went down on strikes, which brought Chase Brim up next.
He worked the count full before belting a ceiling-high liner to center for a RBI single. Two runs should have scored on the hit, but the Oklahoma Union outfielder made a spectacular play to get to the ball and delivered it quickly to the cut-off.
With the bases still loaded — and Caney Valley down by a run, 6-4 — McLaughlin hit into a fielder’s choice that retired Brim at second but brought home Lewis and moved Monday to third.
After McLaughlin stole second, Nelson crushed his walk-off double to complete the Caney Valley comeback.
The Trojans improved to 14-5 overall to wrap up a successful first month of the season.