YUKON — Piedmont pitcher Brayden Nelson likes to finish what he starts on the baseball diamond.
So when head coach Kory Williams suggested he might pull Nelson in the fifth inning of Thursday’s Class 5A state quarterfinal vs. Skiatook at Yukon High School, Nelson told Williams no way.
“He told me ‘you’re not pulling me out of this game'” Williams said.
“It was my game to win or lose,” said Nelson.
Nelson got his way and rewarded Williams’ trust with a complete game seven-hitter to go with four strikeouts to lead Piedmont to a 5-2 win over Skiatook and on to the 5A semifinals where they’ll face either El Reno or Pryor in Yukon Friday at 4 p.m.
In his last five outings, Nelson has pitched four complete games. Since April 5, the Oklahoma Wesleyan signee has allowed just two earned runs.
“It was another gutsy performance by Brayden,” Williams said.
With a run already home in the fifth to cut Piedmont’s lead to 4-2, Skiatook mounted its best rally of the game.
The Bulldogs put runners on second and third with two outs for Billy Beyen, who lined a hard-hit ball bound for center field back toward the mound. Nelson knocked the ball down, though, maintained his composure as it rolled a few feet away to his right, then picked it up and threw to first to end the inning.
“I was kind of mad I didn’t catch it,” Nelson said. “I knew right where the ball was. I just picked it up and threw it. I didn’t really think much about it.”
The Bulldogs had only one runner reach base in their final two at-bats.
The Wildcats took advantage of shaky Skiatook defense to plate three runs in the first two innings. Noah Ellis’ infield single with two outs plated the ‘Cats’ first run and an inning later, Gabe Griffith came through with a two-out RBI-single. Griffith went 3 for 4 with two RBI’s and a run scored.
Piedmont pushed across its final run in the fifth inning when courtesy runner Trace Larson scored from second base on a passed ball and an errant throw back from the catcher that sailed over pitcher Jake Surritte’s head.
“We scored first, which we always want to do and just found ways to push runs across when the opportunity presented itself,” Williams said.
Piedmont committed three errors of its own on Thursday after playing error-less baseball in three games during regionals. Nerves could’ve played a factor, Williams said.
“Hopefully we can get that cleaned up. Since we’ve got this first game under our belt, hopefully we calm down, do what we do and play good defense,” Williams said.