Sports Sunday Correspondent
BROKEN ARROW — As a full moon was coming up over Tiger Field Friday night, the sun was setting on the Claremore Zebras.
Midwest City Albert defeated Claremore, 5-4, knocking the defending champions out of the Class 5A high school baseball tournament.
The Zebras were attempting to reach the finals for the eighth time in the past nine years.
The Titans, coming into the contest with a 35-7 record, used a pair of two-run home runs to bake their victory cake. The icing was added by the relief pitching of hard-throwing Kaleb Herren.
The big righthander started at third base where he committed two errors that allowed Claremore to grab a 4-2 lead. After switching positions with starter Jordan Price, Herren retired 14 of 16 Zebras, including the final 10 in a row.
The Zebras had taken the lead in the third inning with three runs on only one base hit.
Freshman Curt Coyle, pitching for Claremore, opened with a long double to center field. Walks to Garrett Steinbrook and Zane Williams loaded the bases.
Steffon Williams grounded to Herren at third, but he couldn't come up with it.
All runners advanced and the bases were still loaded when the Titans moved Herren to the mound.
He promptly walked Byran Woody, forcing home the go-ahead run. A deep fly ball out by Kyle Vrska allowed Claremore to score another run.
Little did the 200-plus rowdy Claremore fan base realize then that this would be the final run the Zebras would score this season.
Over the final four innings, the only Zebra to reach base was Steinbrook in the fourth, via a walk.
Herren struck out seven while pitching hitless ball.
Both Zebra hits came against Price. Greg Harmon singled in the second and helped Vrska, on base with a walk, reach third base. Phillip Cerrito grounded to Herren and his first error allowed Vrska to put Claremore on the scoreboard.
It didn't take Albert long to strike. In the first inning, Coyle had two outs when Herren blasted a home run over the left field fence. David Vaughn, who had singled, was on second base when Herren connected.
A leadoff walk in the fourth and a double by Andrews pulled the Titans within one run.
The tying and game-winning runs came in the fifth as Price homered to almost the same location as Herren’s poke.
Once again, Zebra coach Matt Murray's youthful pitching staff battled tough.
Like fellow freshman Hunter Hines, who went the distance in a 1-0 setback to Shawnee the day before, Coyle was impressive as he worked six full innings. After being touched for three hits in the first inning, he give up only four more.
Claremore's hopes of a comeback were kept alive in the top of the seventh as reliever Steffon Williams worked out of a bases-loaded jam.
Coyle had hit the first batter of the inning and Williams was called in from his position in left.
The first batter he faced, Dustin Andrews, doubled to right, putting runners at third and second with no outs.
Catcher Zane Williams helped his twin brother by diving for a foul ball to get g the next batter. Steffon Williams ended the threat as he struck out the next two hitters.
The gallant effort went down the drain.
In the bottom of the final inning, Claremore failed to get the ball out of the infield.
So, the defending state champion and winners of two of the past three state trophies, saw the run come to an end. The Zebras finished at 27-14.
Bracket play continued Saturday. The 5A state championship game will be played Monday at ORU’s Johnson Stadium in Tulsa.
MWC Albert 5, Claremore 4
MWC Albert 200 120 0 — 5 8 2
Claremore 013 000 0 — 4 2 0
Price, Herren (3) and Carman. Coyle, S.Williams and Z.Williams. W — Herren. L — Coyle. HR — MWC Albert, Herren, Price.