McALESTER – In a day that had more up and downs than just about any roller coaster, the Durant Lions managed to forge a split of contests on the opening day of the McAlester 5A Baseball Shootout at Mike Deak Field.
Sensational starting pitching was the biggest story of the day for Durant as hurlers Dakota Finley and Brady Nichols both worked seven strong innings against tough competition.
The Lions rallied in the seventh inning of the opener to force extra innings before falling to district rival Pryor, 6-3. Then in the nightcap, Durant watched Duncan tie the game in the top of the seventh before cashing in with a run in the bottom of the frame to snag a 2-1 triumph over the Demons.
Now 18-11 on the season, the Lions are slated to tangle with two-time defending state champ Shawnee at 12:30 today before finishing off pool play against perennial state tournament contender Claremore at 3 p.m. Shawnee is currently riding a 42-game winning streak and ranked number one in the nation by some polls this week.
Pryor 6, Durant 3
Finley battled through his longest mound outing of the season, pitching into the eighth but couldn’t hold off the Tigers as they plated three runs on just one hit along with a Durant error. He allowed just four hits, struck out five and walked five.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the second inning, getting on the board on a Derek Collins RBI double as well as capitalizing on a Lion error, although it appeared as if they had an out recorded without a run scoring.
That’s how it remained as Finley went toe-to-toe with Pryor’s Trent Harrison until Durant finally broke the shutout in the bottom of the fifth.
Finley provided the offensive spark with a leadoff single before a Tiger error and clutch two-out single to right by Gavin Daws cut the margin in half. Cade Buchanan followed with a stinging double to the left-centerfield gap to plate another run but Daws was thrown out at the plate attempting to score the go-ahead run.
Pryor regained the advantage in the sixth with another unearned run, cashing in a DHS error following a walk and wild pitch.
In the bottom of the seventh it was Finley once again that ignited the Lions with a double to right. He moved to third on a Matthew Knox ground out before racing home on a wild pitch to even the score at 3-3.
The Tigers worked a pair of walks against the tiring Durant hurler with one out in the eighth when head coach Ron Moore summoned Nichols from the bullpen. He was unable to squelch the Pryor rally however as they coaxed another free pass and then took the lead for good on a single to right that was misplayed allowing all three runners to score.
Durant finished with seven hits as Finley picked up two of those with Connor Roberts, Nichols, Brayden Green, Daws and Buchanan ending with one apiece.
Durant 2, Duncan 1
Facing Oklahoma State University commit Tyler Polk on the mound, the Lions made the most of their opportunity to take an early lead.
Nichols however outlasted Polk in going the distance for the pitching win on a three-hit gem that included 10 strikeouts and four walks.
Durant got the only run of the first six innings in the opening stanza as Finley worked a walk, Knox added a bunt single and Nichols helped his own cause one out later with a run-scoring groundout.
The Lions got singles from Jensen Simmons in the second and Nichols in the fourth but could not do anything with them as the Duncan ace battled out of trouble. Durant’s junior righthander also had one big jam in the third in which he walked the bases loaded but fanned a pair of Demons to work out of it.
Held to just one hit through six innings, Duncan finally found a little life in the seventh. Brandon Miller opened with a single and the Lions couldn’t get an out on a sacrifice bunt. Carson Kinnaird then delivered a run-scoring hit to left that tied things up at 1-1 with nobody out.
Nichols bore down from there, striking out two of the final three batters of the frame to keep it tied.
In the bottom of the inning, Green drew a walk with two outs but was retired on a fielder’s choice from Finley. Knox then walked to set the stage for Roberts, who smashed a double to the wall for the walkoff game winner.
Contact Kevin Farr at 580-634-2161 or email@example.com