LARRY LARKIN

Sports Sunday Correspondent



If it had been a boxing match Friday night at Claremore's Legion Field, the losing team would have thrown in the white towel early.

The sport was American Legion baseball, however, and Okmulgee had to suffer through 6 1/2 innings.

The official scorecard had the host Rogers County Rangers recording a 17-0 technical knockout on the second day of the Legion Zone tournament.

The game was scheduled for nine innings, but was stopped on the run rule.

Pitcher Matt Sparks upped his season record to 5-0 with the four-hit shutout.

Teammate Zane Williams had as many base hits by himself as the visiting team did. He connected on a home run, two doubles and a single while scoring four runs and driving in three.

"I was seeing the ball real good tonight," said the modest designated hitter. "Everyone was hitting good tonight for us."

It was the fifth home run of the season for Williams who played in the high school All-State game earlier in the week.

Asked if he realized he needed a triple to complete hitting for the cycle, Williams smiled and said, "The guys told me I needed a triple. When I stopped at second (on his second double, in the fourth), the umpire even said I should have tried to make them (Okmulgee) throw me out at third."

The Rangers finished with 15 hits. John Chaisson, Blake Kelley, Jeff Bradshaw and Aaron Conger also connected for doubles.

Taking a five-run lead into the third inning, Rogers County ran circles around the bases with an eight-run outburst. Conger, Chaisson and Steffon Williams each delivered two-run hits.

The way Sparks was pitching, one run would have been enough. This was particularly true after the game's top fielding gem by second baseman Vincent Pironti in the third inning.

Sparks retired the first six batters before Zack Grimmett led off the third with a double. The next batter popped up to Bradshaw at third, but Sparks hit the ninth=place hitter, Jake Avery, with a pitch and Brent Corley followed with a single to center.

When Grimmett stopped at third, the Twins were threatening with the bases loaded and only one out.

Enter Mr. Pironti.

Nicknamed the "Hit Man" by the Claremore pressbox crew, Pironti used his glove this time.

Okmulgee's Cody Biles lifted a fly ball down the first base line and it appeared to be dropping for a hit. At the final second, Pironti made the catch with his back to the infield. He wheeled and quickly threw to Conger at home plate. When Conger tagged Biles two steps short of scoring, the Rangers had a double play. Okmulgee"s inning was over.

The Twins had a fifth-inning single and a double in the sixth, only to see Sparks leave the runners on base.

"We felt we would beat them going into the game, but we were not expecting to do it like this," said Kelley, the Ranger shortstop who knocked in two runs and scored twice. "They were on fire last night and run-ruled Salina (winning, 16-5, in the tournament opener). We felt they would come out tough against us."

By winning Friday night, the Rangers had to win one game Saturday in the double elimination tournament to advance to this week's state championship tournament at Enid.





Rangers 17, OKMULGEE 0

Okmulgee 000 000 0 — 0 4 3

Rangers 328 220 x — 17 15 0

Bevenne, Biggs (3), Biles (5) and Dossey. Sparks and Conger. W — Sparks (5-0). L — Bevenne. HR — Z.Williams (5).