SULPHUR — Runnels coach Tookie Johnson knew his team wouldn’t give up. Unfortunately for the second-seeded Raiders, third-seeded Oak Grove High never gave in.
The Tigers took control with a three-run third inning. Wyatt Martin scattered five hits and was one of three players with two hits as Oak Grove claimed a 5-1 victory over Runnels in Class 2A semifinal played Friday at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Baseball tournament.
“The one big inning caught us,” Johnson said. “Their pitcher (Martin) did a good job. I was waiting for him to give in at any moment because we were hitting hard balls at them. He never did.
“Their third baseman (Jackson Wyly) played a great game defensively. He kept delivering tough pitch after tough pitch. Hats off to them they beat us. In a good game, a nice clean baseball game with two good teams, the ball is going to fall one way or the other. They got the ball to go in the gap, and we didn’t.”
Oak Grove (21-7) advances to play fourth-seeded Kinder (23-9), the defending state champion, in the 2A title game set for 3 p.m. Saturday at McMurry Park. It is the Tigers’ first title-game berth since 2011.
Second-seeded Runnels (21-5) made the tourney for the first time since winning the Class B title since 2008. The Raiders now have the distinction of making the LHSAA tourney in three classifications.
Wyly and Martin also were catalysts at the plate. Wyly finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs, including a two RBI double in the pivotal third inning. Martin was 2-for-4 with two runs scored for the Tigers, while Sam Philley was 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Runnels’ Johnny Johnson finished 2-for-4 with a double.
Martin smacked the first pitch of the game from Runnels starter Hunter Amedee for a double to left and later scored on an infield single by Philley. Johnny Johnson led off the bottom of the first with a single and later scored on a groundout by Josh Sparks to tie it.
No. 9 hitter Kohl Milligan led off the top of the third with an infield single and went to third on a double by Martin. Wyly’s double to center scored both runners. Philley’s second hit scored Wyly to take it 4-1. The Tigers added another in the fourth. Martin struck out six. Runnels stranded runners in four of the final five innings.
“Wyatt had his times when he struggled, but he’s very good,” OGHS coach Ty Rollinson said of Martin. “We know what we’re going to get with him every time whether he’s on the mound or in the field. He’s a bulldog of a competitor.
“You play for those big innings like we had. We were lucky enough to be able to stay in the moment and string some hits together.”
Runnels Johnny Johnson, the son of the Runnels coach, agreed but also praised his team.
“He (Martin) just really competed,” Johnny Johnson said. “I think he started to wear down at the end, but he continued to make tough pitches. It’s hard to hit guys like that when they won’t give in. We tried to string together hits but couldn’t do it.
“This season still means everything to me. This is my favorite season to play since I’ve been here at Runnels. This was a fun and excited year. We didn’t win today, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”