Huskies top Bulldogs for district crown in baseball

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital
Huskies top Bulldogs for district crown in baseball

Forget about Spahn, Sain and the day of rain in Milwaukee! Pawhuska only needed Tyler Culver and a two-day monsoon to win the District 31 high school baseball championship over the Lincoln Christian Bulldogs.

On Monday, Culver pitched his second one-hitter in the best-of-three series as the Huskies finished off the Bulldogs, 12-2, and advanced to a Class 3A Regional Tournament at Verdigris. Pawhuska will face the host Cardinals, the state’s No. 1-ranked 3A team, in the Regional’s opening game beginning at 11 p.m. Thursday.

Culver, a hard-throwing junior, allowed just one marginal hit and racked up 11 strikeouts in five innings in the decisive game against Lincoln Christian. In the district opener last Thursday, the rangy righthander whiffed a dozen Bulldogs in a 4-1 Huskie triumph.

The Tulsa private schoolers pulled out a 4-3 win in Game Two before the two-day downpour delayed completion of the series. Culver’s second straight mound masterpiece, coupled with 11 Huskie hits, gave Pawhuska a 17-12 season record. Lincoln Christian wound up the year at 11-15.

Pawhuska, in its first campaign under coach Brian Edwards, will face a Verdigris team with a mark of 24-2. The Cardinals have claimed back-to-back 3A state titles. The Regional is scheduled to continue through Saturday.

Second game of the double-elimination tournament is set for 1 p.m. Thursday and pits the No. 15 Perkins-Tryon Demons (19-11) against the Adair Warriors (16-14).

Verdigris, as one of two 3A teams to receive a district-round bye (second-ranked Vian was the other), has not played since April 22. Perkins swept Meeker (3-19) in its district matchup, winning 9-4 and 8-6.

“We knew we’d be facing some tough competition — it’s that time,” Edwards said after receiving word of the Huskies’ regional draw. “I think we’ll do all right. We’ve just got to go play.”

Culver won both district-deciding contests in head-to-head showdowns with the stocky, lefthanded senior ace of the Bulldogs, Jared Comfort. He is expected to see more mound action on Thursday.

“Tyler pitched well, especially coming back Monday on short rest,” Edwards said of Culver.

In the series opener, Taylor Priest led a six-hit offensive attack for the Huskies. The versatile PHS junior went two-for-two at the plate, knocked in a run and scored twice — the game’s first run in the bottom of the third and and a final insurance tally in the sixth. The contest was scoreless when Priest drilled a leadoff single in the third. He advanced on a bunt, stole third and came home when a wild throw.

Zalin Edwards, who drew a two-out walk for the Huskies, was targeted on a pickoff attempt at first that resulted in the wild throw. After the Lincoln Christian pitcher’s throw sailed over the Bulldog first baseman, Edwards circled the bases and scored behind Priest for the second Pawhuska run.

Priest used his speed to beat out a two-out infield hit in the fourth that put the Huskies up, 3-1, after the Bulldogs scored their lone run in the top of the inning. Dallas McCarty collected a pair of hits for Pawhuska, while Zak Wilson and Kendall Oller had one apiece.

The Bulldogs had a run taken off the scoreboard in the fifth when umpires correctly reversed a call on a play where Pawhuska first baseman Oller had been pulled off the bag by a throw, but still managed to tag the runner.

On the mound, Culver maintained complete control as he mixed a rising fastball with a sharp curve. He walked just one Bulldog batter and hit two others with pitches. Culver also scored a run to help the offensive cause.

The chance for a home sweep eluded the Huskies when the Lincoln Christian snuck across three late runs on only one hit in the sixth inning to claim a 4-3 victory behind its No. 2 pitcher, Tim Schwoegler, who recorded three straight outs against the Huskie in the seventh.

Lincoln Christian grabbed an early one-run advantage in game two, but the Pawhuska appeared to be in control after scoring lone tallies in second, third and sixth innings to lead, 3-1. Bringing home the first run for the Huskies was Connor McNeil, who smashed a single to left with one out in the second. After Priest was hit by a pitch, Kendall Oller loaded the bases with an infield single. McNeil scored on a sacrifice fly by PHS senior Trent Hollister, tying the game at 1-1.

Pawhuska tied the score with a run in the second and then go up in the third, 2-1. Connor McNeil scored on a sacrifice fly by Trent Hollister to get the Huskies on the board. For the go-ahead run, Culver knocked home McCarty, who had singled to open the inning.

McCarty singled up the middle to lead off the third for Pawhuska. The speedy senior then stole second before Culver knocked him in with a one-out single to center to put the Huskies ahead by two. A line-drive double to left by Edwards started the fifth for PHS. But, after the fleet-footed junior stole third, he was left stranded when Schwoegler retired the next three Huskie batters on a grounder and two strikeouts.

The wasted opportunity would come back to haunt the Huskies, although they tacked on another run in the sixth to lead by a 3-1 margin. Zak Wilson singled sharply to left to lead off and was replaced by courtesy runner Hayden Javellas, who immediately stole second. Javellas, a jet-propelled sophomore, advanced to third on a perfect bunt by McNeil and sailed home on a sacrifice fly by Priest.

A leadoff single and a hit batsmen got the Bulldogs started on their game-winning rally in the sixth. Next came a perfect bunt for a hit, loading the bases. A sacrifice fly pulled Lincoln Christian within a run, at 3-2. The Bulldogs evened the scoring on wild pitch and the go-ahead run scored from third on the throw to first following a wild-pitch strikeout.

In the seventh, Schwoegler recorded three straight outs against the Huskies. The loss was the fourth out of 13 games played in April by the Huskies— with all the losses coming via one-run decisions.

After washouts Friday and Saturday, a day of rest restored full eligibility for all pitchers on both teams and play resumed Monday under sunny skies.

Culver returned to the Huskie hill for for the district clincher and continued to overpower the Lincoln Christian batters with his dominating fastball complemented by nasty curves and hypnotizing change-ups. The lanky hurler K’d two Bulldogs in four of the five innings and retired the side on strikes in the third.

Pawhuska scored lone runs in each of the first two innings and three in both the third and fourth frames. Huskie bats rained 11 hits down on their Lincoln Christian foes.

Leadoff batter Edwards was three-for-three at the plate, scored three runs and knocked in two. He scored the game’s initial run in the first inning by legging out an infield single and coming around when a long fly by Eddie Oyster carried off the extended glove of the Bulldogs’ rightfielder. With two outs and a 2-2 count in the second, Edwards lined a solo home run over the left-field fence to make it 2-0.

Also collecting a pair of hits for Pawhuska were Oyster and designated-hitter Kylar Moody, who started in place of ailing senior Trent Hollister, who was out with a severely sore throat. Five errors cost the Bulldogs any chance at redemption. At least three of the Lincoln Christian miscues resulted in multiple extra bases and-or runs for the Huskies.

Trailing 5-0 in the fourth, Lincoln Christian managed its first run following the only Bulldog hit off Culver, a wind-blown double that could not not be tracked down by the Huskie outfielder. Pawhuska ended the contest by tallying four runs in the home half of the fifth, with hits by Edwards, McCarty, Oyster and Moody — who ended the contest with a single to center. When the 10-run rule was invoked, the Huskies still had the bases loaded with just one out.