Oklahoma City — In Ead Simon’s eight-plus year as Roff’s baseball coach, his teams have been to 16 state tournaments in 18 seasons (spring and fall), and they have won five spring state titles and six championships overall since the spring of 2004 — all for a school with a total enrollment that has hovered around 100 during that period.
When asked to explain his program’s amazing success during his tenure, Simon points out, matter-of-factly, that kids have simply stepped up and have produced in big situations when it’s finally been their turn.
Thursday, it was Austin Fick’s turn.
With seventh-ranked Roff and No. 3 Sterling tied at 2-2 in the top of the sixth inning of their Class A quarterfinal showdown at Dolese Park, Fick —a sophomore who didn’t play as a freshman after moving to Roff from Vanoss and who didn’t start last fall — lined a 2-1 pitch to right-center for a clutch two-out single to score Bryce Antonio with the winning run in a 3-2 victory. The win earned the Tigers a berth in today’s second Class A semifinal at 1:30 p.m. against No. 2 Amber-Pocasset, a 2-1 winner over Wright City in Thursday’s nightcap.
Jordan Scott, who pitched a complete game to earn the victory over Okarche in last spring’s state championship game, continued his late-season roll with a three-hitter Thursday, but Sterling (which finished the season 22-6) used the only two Roff errors of the game to push across two runs in the bottom of the fifth and wipe out a 2-0 Roff lead that had stood since the second inning.
“This is just Roff baseball,” Scott said after the game. “This is the way it’s always been. This is all we’ve ever known.”
Sterling starter Kayden Harzog (5-5) had allowed just four hits and one earned run through five innings, and he struck out Trucker Lee to start the sixth. But Harzog walked Antonio, who had been hit by pitches in his first two at-bats. Hunter Larsh tapped back to the mound on the next pitch for the second out to bring up Fick, who was hitting in the No. 8 spot in the Roff lineup.
Harzog fell behind in the count 2-1, then he watched Fick reach out and drive an outside pitch the opposite way to easily score Antonio.
“Clutch,” Scott — who didn’t allow a baserunner in the sixth or seventh to seal his sixth win in seven decisions — said of Fick’s hit.
“Austin has worked his tail off to be a better hitter, and it paid off,” Simon said after seeing his club win its 11th straight game to improve to 19-6 this spring. “It couldn’t happen to a better kid. Those are moments you don’t forget.”
As for Scott, he didn’t allow a leadoff hitter to reach base all day and didn’t allow a baserunner past second in any inning except the fifth, when Sterling on an error, a hit batter, a single, Trevyn Woolbright’s sacrifice fly and, finally, an errant pickoff attempt — just one pitch before Sterling three-hole hitter Dillon White struck out to end the inning. Scott struck out five and walked two (both in the same inning) in his 109-pitch gem.
“Jordan likes this stage,” Simon said of Scott. “I don’t know how he stays this calm in these situations, but I’m glad he’s on my side.”
Simon’s club, which had rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat Sterling, 6-5, in the championship game at last month’s Roff Spring Tournament, took advantage of two hit batters and the only Sterling error of the game to score twice in the second inning. Trucker Lee doubled into the left field corner with one out, then Antonio was hit with an 0-1 pitch.
Larsh — the winning pitcher in the first meeting between the two teams — followed with a sharp single to center to score Lee with the game’s first run, and Antonio also scored when Sterling catcher Dillon Wright air-mailed a throw into center field trying to cut down Larsh, who moved to second on the throw to the plate.
Neither team had another hit until the fifth, when a sparkling defensive play by Sterling center fielder Mickey Milam prevented Roff from adding to its lead. Eddie Lomas singled with one out in the fifth and moved to third on Dakota Schafer’s single just inside the right field line. Scott, the Roff clean-up hitter, followed with a line drive to medium center field that appeared deep enough to score Lomas, but Milam threw a one-hop strike to catcher Dillon Wright in time to cut down Lomas, keep it a two-run game and set up Sterling’s game-tying rally in the bottom of the inning.