With one heartbeat, the Claremore Zebras have gone from 6A playoff pretenders to regional title contenders.
Behind a fifth-inning rally highlighted by a pair of 2-run doubles from Brenton Washausen and Daltyn Rawlings, the Zebras eliminated Edmond Memorial 8-7 Thursday evening and advanced to the regional championship today against top-ranked Broken Arrow.
Zebra head coach Brent Payne showed his excitement late Thursday with a celebratory chest bump and a few words to his players.
“We’re in the regional finals,” Payne said.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
For the second year in a row, the relentless Zebras have come out of the loser’s bracket to reach the regional finals.
In 2010, the Zebras went toe-to-toe with McAlester and eliminated the Buffaloes in the Class 5A regional championship.
“This is what you play for ... a shot at going to state,” Washausen said. “When we found out we were going to be in Broken Arrow’s regional, all we could think about was getting a chance to knock off the No. 1 team.”
Washausen and Rawlings gave the Zebras that opportunity in the bottom of the fifth inning late Thursday night.
Trailing 5-1, Jacob Teague drew a hit by pitch, Tyler Miller reached first on the fielder’s choice and V.J. Ray loaded the bases with a walk.
The table was set for Washausen, who fouled off eight pitches in his first at-bat before lacing a single through the left-side of the infield.
On the first pitch from Memorial starter Robert Stout, Washausen crushed a 2-run double off the right-center field wall to score Teague and Miller and advance Ray to third base.
Pinch runner Brandon Varnell used his blazing speed to motor down the third base line on the fielding error by Memorial reliever Garrett Hill and slide head first into home plate to tie the game at 5-5.
After back-to-back walks to Matthew Whatley and Austin Brown, the merry go-round continued with Rawlings setting off some heroic fireworks.
Rawlings produced the Zebras’ biggest hit of the night, crushing a 2-run double to left field and scoring Whatley and Brown to give Claremore a 7-5 lead going into the sixth.
Edmond Memorial tied the game at 7-7 in the sixth with RBIs from Ryan Murray and Trent Bowe.
Brown, pitching in relief of Teague and Washausen, struck out Ethan Farris with the bases loaded to end the Memorial rally.
‘Cardiac Claremore’ came alive in the bottom half of the sixth with Ray scoring the winning run after Washausen got a timely single and Whatley drew the hit by pitch.
Brown retired the side in the seventh to earn the win for the Zebras.
“What can you say about these kids, they never give up,” Payne said. “The heart of Claremore showed tonight.”