Three consecutive games on Friday would not faze the 11u Oklahoma Mudcats team that played seven straight at a tournament in early April. Even a seven-run deficit was brushed aside as the Mudcats advanced into the semi-finals of the Triple Crown World Series in Steamboat Springs, Colo., beating the Wichita Falls Buffs, 13-10.
A 5-4 win over the El Monte Dukes and an 8-4 victory over the OC Hawks left Oklahoma just one win away from a perfect day of baseball. The only obstacle that stood in its way was the 16-seeded Buffs team that had already pulled off upsets over the No. 1 and No. 9 seeds.
“We knew we had a tough road today,” said head coach Shawn Norman. “We knew we were going to face three good teams no matter who they were going to be. One thing about our club all year long is we’ve been down and we’ve been up.
“You have to learn how to play with a lead and learn how to play from behind. These kids always keep the task at hand.”
After a classic 1-4-6-3 double play ended the top of the first inning, the Mudcats offense went right to work in the bottom half. Cooper Frazee led the inning off with a single, eventually coming around to score off an RBI single from Kellen Frizzell.
Everything changed in the second inning. Wichita strung together eight base hits, one triple and eight total runs, leapfrogging Oklahoma, 8-1.
Just as Norman has instructed his youngsters all year long, the even-keeled Mudcats began to claw its way back. Easton Costa kicked things off in the third inning, coming around to score on a double from Mason Novotny.
“I just wanted to go up there and get a base hit,” said Costa. “We needed runs but we needed base runners first.”
A third double in the inning from B.K. Ferris plated a third run. Ferris would also score on a passed ball, giving Oklahoma four runs in the inning, closing the gap, 8-5.
Wichita responded with a run of its own in the top of the third inning making it 9-5 in favor of the away side. However, the singular run was not enough to stop the momentum brewing for the Mudcats.
Frizzell answered with a second base hit of the contest, allowing Costa to bring him in two batters later. Four more runs tied the game at nine, resetting the matchup with three innings to go.
“It was just one base at a time really,” said Cash Williams, who finished the game 1-2 with a hit-by-pitch and a triple. “That’s all we had to do to get ourselves back in the game.”
Again the Buffs struck first, pushing across its 10th run to take the lead., but Williams and company weren’t about to throw away the game that they had just spent so much time getting back into.
With a runner on first, Williams turned on the perfect pitch, sending the ball to the base of the 292-foot fence marker in left field. His triple tied up the game at 10 and had him mere feet away from the Mudcats’ first lead since it was 1-0.
“I honestly saw a watermelon that I smacked,” said Williams. “I don’t think I can hit it much further than 292 right now, but that was a shot.”
Frizzell wasted no time driving in Williams, delivering with an RBI single in the next at-bat. Three batters later, Costa provided some insurance, sending Frizzell home with single of his own.
Oklahoma quickly dissipated any hopes of a comeback in the fifth inning with a 1-2-3 effort and added a 13th run in the bottom half of the frame before time ran out, solidifying the Mudcats’ spot in the 11u semifinals.
“Our ability to score so quickly has really surprised me,” said Norman. “It’s been a huge advantage for us to turn it on when we need to and that really helped us get the win today.”
The Mudcats will face a talented Dallas Tigers-Bergman team that has also yet to surrender a game in the 2017 World Series.
“Winning this championship would mean a lot to us,” said Costa. “We’ve all worked really hard and it would be a perfect end to our summer.”