There were plenty of fireworks in the first game of the Tiger/Zebra Classic Thursday afternoon at Legendary Legion Field.
Claremore waited til the fifth and sixth innings to rally past the Grove Ridgerunners.
Matt Whatley’s two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning, and then Jacob Teague’s solo homer in the sixth inning proved to be the difference in Claremore’s 5-4 win over Grove.
Trailing 4-2 going into the bottom of the fifth inning, Claremore opened with a bunt single by Brandon Varnell and then Cole Weiesnbach’s moved Varnell to second base on the sacrifice bunt down the third base line.
After T.J. Wood’s sacrifice fly advanced Varnell to third base, Claremore’s (Matt) Whatley came to the plate with two outs.
Whatley took Grove starting pitcher Ty Phillips deep into the count at 2-2 and on his sixth pitch from Phillips, the Claremore starting catcher blasted his second homer of the season over the left-field wall to tie the game at 4-4.
Claremore led Grove. 2-0 after four solid innings, but the Ridgerunners mounted a rally of their own in the top half of the fifth to claim the 4-2 lead.
Claremore starting pitcher Dalton Clifton got into a jam in the fifth, giving up a single to Cody Stevenson, a walk to Ty Morrow and a fielding error on a bunt by Caden Livermoore to load the bases.
After Clifton’s bases loaded walk to Gibson Russ that scored Stevenson from third, the Ridgerunners trimmed Claremore’s lead to 2-1.
Claremore head coach Brent Payne pulled Clifton in relief of senior left-hander Andrew Byington, who entered the game with the bases loaded.
Byington struck out Justin Tesrow for the first out of the inning, and then Eric Ryan laced a three-run double off the left-center field wall to put Grove up 4-2.
The double by Ryan came on a 1-0 count and a hanging curveball in the strike zone, in which the Grove designated hitter belted to the warning track.
Byington regained his composure following a walk to Jake Spychalski to get Benny Steffenson on the strikeout and Phillips on the flyout to Teague in center field.
Coming out in the bottom of the sixth, Teague opened the inning with a solo blast over the right field wall to return the lead in favor of Claremore at 5-4.
Teague, who had struck out and grounded out back to the pitcher in his first two at-bats, proved the third time around would be the charm.
The Zebra senior center fielder waited out a 2-1 count from Grove relief pitcher (Cody) Stevenson and on his fourth pitch, Teague smothered a fastball over the Rogers County Abstract sign in right field.
Early on in the game, Claremore’s offense looked fiery as Wood’s double in the first inning set up Bryce Howe’s RBI-double to put the Zebras ahead, 2-0.
Claremore (11-3) also played Joplin (Mo.) in the nightcap Thursday.
The win marked the second-straight for the Zebras since returning a 1-3 performance in the 20th Annual Tate Aggie Classic over Spring Break.
Claremore pounded Pryor, 9-0 earlier in the week as Whatley blasted his first homer of the season and Howe turned in a complete game performance on the mound.
The Zebras face No. 3 McAlester at 7 p.m. tonight at Legion Field.