Pawhuska baseball season comes to end against CVHS

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

RAMONA — The loss of senior Gage Dagenais left the Pawhuska High School Huskies baseball team shorthanded (and especially short on arms) heading into Wednesday night’s 2A district baseball matchup versus the Caney Valley Trojans.

The remaining PHS pitchers, Caleb Bruce and Randsom Jones, did everything they could to alleviate those shortages. Bruce, a junior, and freshman Jones managed to keep the Huskies in contention during both games of the elimination series — no small task against the homestanding Trojans, 2A’s No. 10-ranked team.

One-hitters by Caney Valley hurlers Troy Gagan and Gavin Keith paved the way to back-to-back victories — 7-0 and 4-1 — as the hosts ended Pawhuska’s season.

The Huskie squad that had charged out to a 4-1 start under head coach Brian Edwards finished the campaign with an 11-13 mark — with five of those losses coming at the hands, arms and bats of the Trojans.

In his final PHS appearance before he broke his collarbone April 10, Dagenais helped hold Caney Valley scoreless through the first four innings in the championship game of the Oklahoma Union Tournament before the roof caved in for the Huskies in a 9-0 defeat. (Earlier losses to the Trojans were by the even more lopsided scores of 12-3 and 19-1.)

Edwards said losing Dagenais — PHS’s top pitcher, who either caught or played shortshop when not on the mound — was like losing three Huskie players, rather than one.

Freshman Jones pitched with veteran poise in the opening district game. The lefthander yielded seven hits, while striking out four, walking two and hitting one. He settled down after a shaky start, which was eased by a PHS defensive shakeup in the bottom of the first inning.

Caney Valley scored a run in the opening inning, added two in the second and another in the fourth. Nonetheless, Jones kept the score close until the Huskie defense lapsed in the sixth.

Gagan shut out the Huskies while striking out 12. Pawhuska’s lone hit came on an opposite-field double by Caleb Bruce to start of the fifth inning. The sinking liner was nearly caught by the Caney Valley right fielder. The Huskies stranded two men aboard in both the fourth and fifth innings, but never advanced a runner past second base.

Huskies’ junior Bruce, an all-sports’ star, was extraordinary in the nightcap. He allowed just three hits while striking out 14 Trojan batters. Caney Valley did all of its damage early — getting three runs in the first and adding one more in the second, when Bruce began a string of eight straight strikeouts. At one point, he retired 15 Trojans in a row.

Bruce drove in the Huskies’ lone run of the night with a two-out single in the sixth. Price Perrier walked to lead off the inning. The freshman stole second, moved to third on a Gaige Reynolds’ groundout and scored on Bruce’s hard-hit grounder to the hole at short. CVHS shortstop Gagan robbed Bruce of another hit with a high-leaping catch at the start of the fourth.

Keith struck out four and walked one. Bruce, who threw more than 140 pitches in the game, walked three batters and hit a couple others.

The district series started at 6 p.m. following a four-hour weather-related delay.