YUKON — Piedmont’s Trevor Larson admitted to holding back tears as his teams’ hopes of reaching the state title game faded in the seventh inning Friday.
“To be honest, I was about to start crying with my teammates,” the senior outfielder said.
Larson watched from the dugout as El Reno turned a 6-4-3 double play to come within an out of sealing a come-from-behind, 4-3, victory in a Class 5A semifinal at Yukon High School. Moments later, after a walk and a single, Larson collected the biggest hit of his career to tie the game at four to send Piedmont and El Reno to extra innings.
“Over the season I’ve been tight every time I’ve gone up to the plate in a situation like that,” Larson, who looped a single to center, said. “I was just trying to stay calm.”
Following the two-out rally, the Wildcats scored three times in the eighth and pitcher Ty Anderson worked a 1-2-3 bottom half of the inning to give Piedmont a 7-4 win and a berth in the Class 5A State Title game vs. defending champion Shawnee at 4 p.m. Saturday in Yukon.
“What can you say about our guys battling back like that,” head coach Kory Williams said. “I’m so proud of them.”
Bryce McDermott, who walked to keep the game alive in the seventh, brought home the eventual game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Brayden Nelson followed McDermott’s walk with a single in the seventh and added an RBI-single in the eighth. With new-found confidence, Larson added an RBI-double to cap Piedmont’s eighth-inning rally.
Down to his, and Piedmont’s final strike against El Reno starter Ryan Kouba in the seventh, Nelson received added motivation from an unlikely source.
“I actually heard the umpire tell the catcher, ‘good luck in the next round,’ and that kind of made me mad,” Nelson said. “I said, you know what, I’m gonna go get a base hit.”
He did, setting the stage for Larson who entered the pressure-packed at-bat hitting .255 on the season.
“We have faith in everyone in our order,” Nelson said. “It’s someone new everyday. Everyone is coming up clutch these days. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Trevor came through.”
Noah Ellis put Piedmont in front 3-1 with a three-run home run in the fifth inning, but El Reno battled back to score three runs off Anderson in its half of the fifth to regain the lead on an RBI-single from Seth Jones.
Anderson stayed the course, though, retiring six of the last seven batters he faced to earn the complete game win. Anderson struck out six, scattered six hits and allowed two earned runs. By the eighth inning when he struck out two El Reno batters to end the game, Anderson was fueled by momentum as much as anything.
“That was all adrenaline,” he said.
Piedmont will likely hand the ball back to Thursday’s starting pitcher, Nelson, for a chance to win its first state title in program history. The Wildcats swept a pair of district games from Shawnee earlier this season.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season, so we’ll need to be ready to play,” Williams said.