PRYOR — Before the ball even left his hand, Matt Wofford had a bad feeling.
With the count at 1-2 heading into what would be only his 14th pitch of the game, Claremore pitching coach Blake McQueen prompted the senior to throw an inside changeup.
Something about that call didn’t sit right with Wofford, and his worries became reality shortly after in the form of Gus Collins’ bat.
The Arkansas commit took advantage of Wofford’s uneasy demeanor, smacking a 2-run home run over the left-field wall early in the first inning, leading Pryor to a 9-1 victory over Claremore at Memorial Field on Monday night.
“Off the bat, it looked like a pop up to centerfield, but it just kept going,” Wofford said. “After that pitch, I decided to move forward and got out of that inning only surrendering two.”
Wofford found himself in an even more nightmarish situation in the second inning after allowing two walks and a hit to load the bases for the Tigers, but he managed to strike out Nick Sizemore — his first of the game — to retire the inning without any more damage.
“I struck him out to end the inning, and that felt pretty good,” Wofford said. “I’m going to work on this and keep getting better and give our team the best opportunity we can to win. I’ve had some shaky starts, and I’ve had some really good starts. This year, I’ve had two of each.”
Wofford, who is now 1-2 this season, allowed five hits, seven walks, and seven runs while striking out three.
The Zebras (7-6, 3-1 in 5A-3) cut the deficit to 3-1 in the fourth when Dasen Tilley scored on an RBI groundout from Cort Dotson, but that was the closest coach Jim Sherl’s crew would get.
Pryor exploded for five runs in the fourth, effectively putting the game out of the reach.
Sizemore got the run started with a bases-loaded walk to score Jarett Gage, and Brooks Miller followed up with a 2-RBI single on a fly ball to left field, scoring Collins and Trent Harrison.
After Zach Kober earned a walk, Garrett Mitchell brought in another run with an RBI single to leftfield. Jaedon Campbell then brought Miller home with a sacrifice fly to rightfield.
Trent Hill capped off the scoring spree by scoring Kober with an RBI groundout to second base.
Sherl said outside of the fourth inning, his team competed with what many consider the No. 1 team in Class 5A.
“We had a plan coming in, and our pitcher was going to try to get two times through the lineup, and he did. We were right there where we wanted to be. Other than that one inning, we thought we played a good baseball game against them.”
The Tigers (17-2, 7-0) didn’t record another hit the rest of the way, but they didn’t need to thanks to a nine-strikeout, two-hit effort from Collins in a complete game on the mound.
Trevor Janzen and Dylan Gettinger were the only Zebras to manage a hit on the senior.
“I thought we played good defense, and that’s a great pitcher,” Sherl said. “He’s the best in our district, and he may be one of the best in the state. I thought we competed against him and hit some balls hard. We had some chances, we just didn’t string enough of them together, obviously. It’s never fun to lose, but I think we can learn and move on from this loss.
“We can see where we’re at, what we need to work on and where we need to get to.”