What has gotten into Claremore senior right fielder Isaac Hollihan?
Hollihan’s third-inning grand slam in Thursday’s 5-2 win over Booker T. Washington proved to be the spark needed to keep Claremore on pace for an undefeated season in Metro Lakes Conference play.
After going down in his first at-bat against Booker T. Washington’s Evan Skaggs, Hollihan fell behind 1-2 in the count his second time around.
That fourth pitch, however, was not only a crowd-pleaser, but it was a ‘thing of beauty’ as it left Hollihan’s bat and soared over the Walmart sign in right field at Legion Field.
“At first, I didn’t think it was gone. I thought it was either a sacrifice fly ball or off the wall,” Hollihan said.
The feeling, though, was incredible, according to Claremore’s No. 5 hitter.
Hollihan’s grand slam was the first of his varsity career in a live game. The senior has belted out numerous bombs in practice, and even hit the only homer in batting practice at an Arkansas showcase this past fall at Baum Stadium in Fayettevile.
The timing of his grand slam, however, helped Claremore generate four runs in the third inning and take a 5-0 lead.
Hollihan said he was looking for another curveball down 1-2 in the count.
Skaggs delivered Hollihan a left-handed hook and the rest was history, including the Hornets starting pitcher’s day on the mound.
Until Hollihan’s bomb, Skaggs had kept Claremore’s offense in check with one run on two hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Hollihan added that he attributes his success at the plate to his coaches.
“Coach (Brent) Payne and Coach (Jim) Sherl have been working on my swing all season and sending me footage of my swings for me to study,” Hollihan said.
The lessons have paid off as Hollihan increased his home run total to three Friday with a pair of bombs in the Zebras’ 6-4 win at Booker T. Washington.
Claremore rode the momentum of starting pitcher Bryce Howe early Thursday afternoon, as the junior right-hander retired the Hornets in order with three-straight strikeouts.
Running his fastball across the plate in the high 80s, Howe was untouchable until the top of the third inning.
Claremore helped ease the pressure of Howe’s outing with a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first and four more in the third to go ahead 5-0.
Howe helped his cause in the first with an RBI-single that scored leadoff-hitter Cole Weiesnbach from second base. Weiesnbach reached base on the walk.
After Howe retired the Hornets’ first five batters on strikeouts, Skaggs got a piece of Howe’s fastball and laced a grounder to shortstop (Cole) Weiesnbach, who fielded the ball and fired to first baseman Jacob Teague.
Skaggs, however, reached base after the throw from Weiesnbach to Teague was high.
Teague made up for the error moments later when he dove to his right and snagged a scorching ground ball off the bat of Bobby Cox for the unassisted putout that capped the top half of the second.
T.J. Wood got Claremore’s second hit of the game — a single between shortstop and third base and then advanced two bases on wild pitches from Skaggs.
Claremore’s inning, however, ended on Weiesnbach’s flyout to deep center field.
Trailing 1-0 in the top of the third, the Hornets got their first runner on base when Seamus Ryan-Johnson tagged Howe’s breaking ball for a single to center field.
Claremore’s defense backed up Howe with strong play by third baseman Tyler Cagle to cap the inning.
The Zebras’ dramatic third inning pushed the margin to 5-0, and the Hornets chipped away with one run in the sixth and another run in the seventh.
Howe tossed six strong innings to improve to 3-0 on the season. He finished with 13 strikeouts on four hits with one walk.
“Right now, I believe that our success comes from playing as a team and not playing for ourselves,” Hollihan said. “We just find ways to win.”
The Zebras are 8-0 on the season and 4-0 in Metro Lakes Conference action.