David Reeder

Special to the Grove Sun

OOLOGAH-With the brothers Shambaugh, junior Kyle and senior Cayle, throwing back-to-back two-hitters in Wednesday’s opening round of regional playoffs at Oologah, it was one of those cruel baseball ironies that saw Kyle win his game against Catoosa, while Cayle took the loss, versus Metro, by identical 3-0 scores.

The future seemed bright for Jay as the host Oologah Mustangs fell to Metro Christian, 5-4, in the final inning of the first game of the four-team double elimination tournament. And brighter still when the Bulldog defense flashed a little leather in their opening game, which would prove to be their undoing in the latter.

The junior Shambaugh had to get out of some first inning trouble when he walked Catoosa’s Matt Shepherd, who promptly stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice. But Shambaugh got the Indians’ cleanup man to go down swinging.

Jay also squandered their scoring opportunity in the first when John Davenport and Cayle Shambaugh reached base only to be stranded.

Both squads missed scoring opportunities in the second, but in the home half of the third, Kyle Shambaugh picked up a one-out double and came in to score on an error in the Indian outfield on a ball hit by Casey Loomis.

A wild pitch moved Loomis into scoring position, where he scored on Catoosa’s second miscue of the frame.

Following a scoreless fourth, Jay scratched out another run when Kyle led off with a walk, moved to third on his brother’s double and scored on a Loomis sacrifice fly. The Bulldog pitcher would eventually walk a batter in both the sixth and seventh innings, but neither would score as Jay held on for the 3-0, two hit shutout.

With one victory under their belts and their ace, Cayle Shambaugh scheduled to take the hill, the Bulldogs’ future seemed rosy. But this second game, however; would prove to be that cruel fate alluded to previously. As the result of a pre-game coin toss, Jay was designated as the visiting team and took first cuts at the dish. The Bulldogs went three up and three down in the first inning and wasted a one-out double by Seth Hudson in the second. And in the bottom of the second, the Patriots Tucker Chonka reached first via an error on a routine grounder in the infield. Chonka’s younger brother Zander then reached base on another infield error on the Bulldog’s that allowed Tucker to score an unearned run, taking a 1-0 lead.

Jay’s Jeremiah Daugherty got his team’s second hit of the game in the top of the third and moved into scoring position with a stolen base only to get stranded by a pair of routine pop flies.

Cayle Shambaugh led off the fourth with a base hit, but suffered the same problem as Daugherty, when the next three batters went down without a whimper. Following the scoreless fourth, the Bulldog’s J.J. Meeker reached base on an error by the Metro shortstop and moved to second on Matt Henderson’s sacrifice bunt to start the fifth. And again, Jay couldn’t push the runner across.

Metro’s Connor Rodich led off the home half of the fifth with the Patriots’ second hit of the contest and moved to second with a stolen base. But Shambaugh whiffed the next pair of Metro hitters to get out of the jam.

It was in the subsequent bottom of the sixth, however that the Bulldog dilemma intensified. The Patriots’ Mason Mantle worked the Jay lefty for a walk and scored when what appeared to be a potential double play off the bat of Cale Culbreath was thrown high and wide of the Dog’s second sacker and into the outfield. Culbreath would eventually swipe second, advance to third on a wild pitch and score on Tucker Chonka’s sacrifice fly. Down by three, Jay’s last three batters grounded out to the Metro shortstop, to fall by the 3-0 final score.

Oologah would eventually dispatch Catoosa by a 9-3 score in the fourth game of the day to put themselves into another elimination game against the Bulldogs on Thursday.

After playing to a split on Wednesday, the Jay Bulldogs needed to win twice on Thursday to remain in the hunt for a state playoff berth. And to that end the ‘Black & Gold’ eliminated the host team Oologah, 20-15 in the day’s first game and came within a bloop and a blast of forcing a Friday finale in the next.

As a result of the pre-game coin toss, the Bulldogs batted first. And things got off to a pretty good start when John Davenport worked the Patriot starter Cale Culbreath for a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice by Kyle Shambaugh. Davenport then moved to third on a Cayle Shambaugh single and scored as a result of a throwing error by the Metro catcher. Shambaugh, who advanced on the play at the plate, came into score Jay’s second run on a passed ball. Leading 2-0, Guage Foreman got the starting nod and pitched his way around a two-out base on balls to hold Metro scoreless in the first. The Bulldog fortunes appeared to be on the rise when Jeremiah Daugherty singled behind Matt Henderson, who’d reached base on a fielder’s choice. Davenport then followed with a long blast up and over the right-centerfield wall for a 3-run dinger. In the home half of the 2nd, the Patriots’ Zac Hansen got his team on the board with a solo homerun, to take the game into the 3rd with Jay on top 5-1.

Cayle Shambaugh led off the 3rd with the 2nd of his four-hit day and moved to 2nd when Casey Loomis was hit by a pitch. That was followed by a Foreman base hit that loaded the bases. And J.J. Meeker made it 7-1 with his two-RBI single. But the ‘Dogs weren’t able to enjoy the 6 run lead for long. Culbreath started the home half of the inning with a single while Tucker Chonka reached on an error. And that brought up Hanson, who swatted his 2nd homerun of the game. By the time the inning was over, Metro had sent 8 batters to the plate, cutting the Jay lead down to 7-5.

After a scoreless 4th and top of the 5th, the Patriots put together a walk, a single and a pair of extra base hits to tie things up at 7 each. The Bulldogs stranded 2 more runners in the top of the 6th to set up the definitive bottom half of the frame. In the home half of the stanza, Metro sent 11 batters to the dish and picked up 6 runs on 7 hits. The big blast came off of the bat of Patriot catcher Connor Rodich’s with a 2 run homer. With only an inning left to play and down by a half dozen, things looked bleak for Jay. But the never say die ‘Dogs weren’t done yet. After the leadoff man popped out to the catcher, Foreman worked the Metro reliever for a walk. Meeker followed with his 2nd hit of the night, where a subsequent error by the shortstop plated a Jay run. Davenport drew a 2 out walk to load the bases and Kyle Shambaugh brought his team within 2 with a base clearing triple. And suddenly, the tying run, in the person of Cayle

Shambaugh was at the plate. And Shambaugh hit the ball on the proverbial screws. But the Patriot defense had shifted to the extreme 1st base side of the field, where the first baseman snagged the laser shot for the game’s final out to make the final score 14-12.