For four innings, it looked like the Class 5A State Championship was coming back to Claremore.
But a pair of run-scoring doubles in the top of the fifth inning ignited the Carl Albert Titans and provided the momentum needed to clinch a 4-2 win over Claremore Saturday afternoon in the Class 5A State Finals at Edmond Santa Fe.
The state championship was the second in a row for Carl Albert, who also defeated Claremore 6-2 in the 2012 State Finals.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed in the outcome,” Claremore head coach Brent Payne said. “They got the big hits in the fifth and that’s what championship teams do.
“But, I’m so proud of these kids and the season they had. We’ve come a long way since last summer and to get back to the finals for the second year in a row says a lot about the hard work and competitiveness of this team.”
Claremore (31-5) jumped on Carl Albert early with a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
Matt Whatley reached first on the hit by pitch, advanced to second on T.J. Wood’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Jacob Teague’s RBI-single to center field.
Teague later scored on Isaac Hollihan’s two-out RBI-double off the right-field wall.
“We came out aggressive in the first inning and gave our pitcher (Bryce) Howe some insurance with that 2-0 lead,” Payne said.
Howe (8-2) worked out of bases loaded jams in the second and third innings, striking out Steven Thompson on a nasty breaking ball in the second and then retiring Jared Price on a 2-2 fastball in the third.
Carl Albert trimmed Claremore’s lead to 2-1 in the top of the second on Cameron Warren’s RBI-single to left field that scored Chevin Noone, who led off the inning with a single to center field.
Carl Albert produced three-straight singles off Howe in the second, before Claremore’s junior pitcher settled in and with a pair of strikeouts and a flyout to Teague.
Through the first three innings, Howe allowed one run on six hits with five strikeouts and one walk.
Carl Albert’s defense squelched Claremore’s opportunities in the third and fourth innings with back-to-back double plays to aid starting pitcher (Chevin) Noone.
Teague and Andrew Byington each produced singles in those innings, but Claremore was unable to get the timely hit in order to add to its 2-1 lead.
Carl Albert (34-3) got to Howe in the top of the fifth and tallied three runs to steal the 4-2 lead away from the Zebras.
Cody Zangari’s RBI-double with two outs tied the game at 2-2, and then Price’s two-run double to deep right-center field extended the margin to 4-2.
“Carl Albert’s a great hitting team that can put pressure on teams,” Payne said. “Those two doubles changed the momentum of the game.”
Howe tossed five innings before being relieved by Teague in the sixth. He gave up four runs on nine hits with nine strikeouts and two outs.
Teague, who went 3-for-3 at the plate with a run scored and an RBI, had three strikeouts with no hits in two innings of relief.
Notes: Claremore’s top five hitters went 4-for-14 in the game. Dalton Clifton and Brandon Varnell also had singles for the Zebras.