Special to the Grove Sun
GROVE - After taking down Miami by an 11-4 margin and obliterating Grove in a 15-0 runaway on Wednesday night, the Jay Summer Dawgs earned their way into the league’s postseason finals Friday night at Jim Beauchamp Field. Ostensibly, their opponents were supposed to be the Vinita Hornets, but in reality, the team they played was more of a collection of all-stars hailing from Mayes and Ottawa Counties as much as Craig County. And were it not for a shaky sixth inning, the Dawgs probably would have walked away with the title anyway.
Hunter Highsmith got the start for Jay, and sprinkled three hits over his scoreless four innings of work. The Dawg offense threatened in the bottom of the first when Bryce Davenport and J.J. Meeker put runners on the corners with a single apiece, but were stranded when the Hornet pitcher got the next batter to nub one to the first baseman.
Following a scoreless second , Matt Henderson reached base with a one-out single and moved into scoring position on Davenport’s second hit of the game in the third. Henderson gave the Dawgs a 1-0 edge when he scored on Cory Stiefel’s RBI hit. A misplay in the Vinita outfield moved Stiefel and Davenport to second and third base, respectively, with only one out. But the Hornet hurler got the next pair of batters to fly out and strike out to strand two more runners for a second time.
Highsmith closed out his pitching stint with a scoreless fourth before giving way to the bullpen to open up the fifth.
The Jay reliever walked the first pair of batters he faced and a double steal put both runners in scoring position. Vinita tied the game on a sacrifice that plated the lead runner. But the Dawg defense, which played errorless ball the entire day, put together a pair of big plays. With the runners on the move, the Hornet leadoff man struck a comebacker to the mound. The Jay pitcher cut down the potential go ahead run at the plate. The Vinita runner, that had reached base on the previous fielder’s choice, advanced 90 feet on a balk and took off for home a single to left field. But left field was now manned by Highsmith and after fielding the ball on one hop, the talented class of 2011 graduate threw a strike to home plate that just nipped the runner and ended the rally. Both the runner and the Vinita bench let their displeasure be known by all in attendance. But the Hornet runner, who also happened to be his team’s starting pitcher, let his displeasure get the best of him and so vociferously disputed the call that he got himself ejected from the contest.
With things knotted at one each, the Dawg offense came right back. Brent Pritchett worked the Vinita reliever for a leadoff walk and changed places with Henderson, who reached on a fielder’s choice. Davenport followed with a base on balls to put runners at first and second base. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position and Stiefel gave Jay back the lead with his second RBI hit of the game. Davenport scored an insurance run on another Hornet miscue, to set up the pivotal top of the sixth. The Vinita leadoff man walked and scored on a double by their catcher. The Hornet backstop plated the second of three Hornet tallies to retake the lead. With Jacob Lux on the hill, Jay’s catcher Meeker nailed the Vinita runner to get his team out of the frame. But the Dawgs wasted a Kellen Brown single in the home half of the sixth and a walk to Meeker in the seventh, to ultimately fall by a 4-3 final.