BROKEN ARROW — It didn’t matter who Claremore threw at the Titans.
Carl Albert came out swinging and showed no mercy, tallying four home runs and 13 hits in a 14-0 decision in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament at Broken Arrow High School on Thursday.
Zebras coach Jim Sherl accepted fault for his team’s performance, claiming he didn’t have his players prepared for what awaited them on this occasion.
“We’re a really good team when we’re loose, relaxed and having fun,” Sherl said. “Maybe I did a bad job of putting pressure on them, or maybe they put too much pressure on themselves. We weren’t that fun-loving team today, and I think that showed.”
The teams appeared to be on equal footing after a scoreless first inning, but once Carl Albert (32-7) got its bats going, there was no slowing the perennial power down.
And the homers kept coming.
Ben Harris got the home-run party started for the Titans, sending a bomb over the center-field wall to make it 2-0.
Sherl swapped Matt Wofford for Brady Priess on the mound after that, but the change made little difference.
Carter LaValley launched one over the wall in the same area shortly thereafter, tacking on three more runs for Carl Albert.
Priess managed to keep the Titans off the board through the next two innings, but Houston Russell got things going again in the fifth, blasting a shot over the left-field wall for a 3-RBI homer.
LaValley then led off the sixth with his second homer, this one a solo shot to right field.
Sherl had nothing but praise for LaValley, who went 3-for-5 at the plate with 7 RBIs.
“We have a long history of playing Carl Albert,” Sherl said. “And I don’t know if it’s a brother or cousin, but we’ve been playing LaValleys for a long time. They’ve been good players, and they do a great job.”
The Zebras (21-12) finally caught a break from the deep shots later in the inning when a Jake Estes fly ball went foul just before sailing over the wall, but the relief was only temporary.
Carl Albert didn’t hit another home run the rest of the way, but the Titans weren’t done adding to their advantage.
A 3-RBI double from LaValley, followed by a Preston Flowers RBI single, brought the tally to 13-0, and Gavin Haines capped off the scoring with a single, driving in Flowers.
Dylan Gettinger and Jake Gilmore recorded the only two hits for Claremore in the season-ending loss.
Wofford took the loss on the mound, allowing two hits and three runs with one strikeout in 1.1 innings.
Carson Thomas lasted six innings for the Titans, striking out 10.
The loss was the exact opposite of last year’s opening day of the state tournament, when Claremore defeated MacArthur, 10-0, in five innings.
Sherl said that’s just how baseball works sometimes, but he’s optimistic about next year’s returning cast, which includes the likes of Noah Smallwood, Brooks Sherl, Trevor Janzen and Dasen Tilley.
All will see significant playtime come the 2020 season.
“It’s the state tournament,” coach Sherl said. “It’s single elimination, and I’m not a fan of single elimination because I don’t know if the best team always wins in that format. But it is what it is. Last year was a lot of fun winning big, and this year wasn’t a lot of fun losing big.
“We graduated 12 last year, and this year we’re going to graduate six. It’s always tough losing that senior leadership, but we seem to have good kids coming.”