When it comes to playing baseball in the state of Oklahoma, don’t mess with Bryce Howe and the Class 5A No. 2-ranked Claremore Zebras.
The Zebras closed out their dominating performance in the Tiger/Zebra Classic Saturday evening with an 8-0 win over the Booker T. Washington Hornets in the championship game at Legendary Legion Field.
Claremore (14-3) scored 40 runs in their four games — including 28 combined in wins over No. 7 McAlester, No. 8 Grove and No. 19 Booker T. Washington.
Riding the momentum of Jacob Teague’s no-hitter in a 15-0 win over McAlester Friday night in the semifinals, the Zebras’ offensive machine never skipped a beat in the finals.
With junior right-handed pitcher Bryce Howe on the mound, Claremore’s offense provided the Zebras’ veteran hurler with a 4-0 cushion after two innings against BTW.
Cole Weiesnbach put Claremore ahead 1-0 in the top half of the first, drawing a lead-off walk and then scoring on Isaac Hollihan’s sacrifice groundout to second base.
Then, in the second, Claremore scored three unearned runs with one hit — a single by junior catcher Matt Whatley — to go up 4-0.
Howe, who improved to 5-1, gave up his first hit of the game — a single to center field by BTW right fielder Jordan Brewer — in the bottom of the second. On the next pitch, though, Whatley gunned down Brewer on the steal attempt to second base to squelch the Hornets’ rally.
Through two complete innings, Howe had two strikeouts with one hit and solid defense backing him up — highlighted by Claremore second baseman T.J. Wood with two putouts.
Claremore’s Howe helped his cause in the top-half of the third, riding out a 2-0 count with a solo homer over the left field wall. Howe’s towering shot extended the Claremore lead to 5-0.
Howe, meanwhile, continued to dominate on the mound, mixing his fastball with a knee-breaking curveball to record the next nine in a row.
After five innings, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound hurler was in a groove with seven strikeouts on one hit and no walks.
Claremore plated its final three runs in the top of the sixth inning as senior left fielder Brandon Varnell led off with a single to right field. Base hits by Wood and Hollihan set the table for Howe, who had the bases loaded with one out.
Howe crushed Matt Bruns’ fastball with a 3-run double to left field that put Claremore ahead with a comfortable 8-0 lead.
The Zebras, who have won five straight since going 1-3 in Florida, host Coweta at 4 p.m. today in Metro Lakes play.