Braves all tuned up with no one to play

Mike Erwin Journal-Capital
Members of the Bartlesville Braves American Legion Baseball team celebrate following their four-game tournament sweep Saturday in the AAA State Tournament at Comanche. Pawhuska players include Corbin McCarty (bottom left), Caleb Bruce (bottom row, third from left), Payton McCarty (bottom row, center), Colton Hindman (bottom right) and Randsom Jones (top row, center). The Braves are coached by Patrick McCarty (top right).

Coach Patrick McCarty isn’t sure what’s next on the slate for the Bartlesville Braves.

He just hopes the team’s American Legion Baseball season hasn’t reached a conclusion.

“The way they’ve been playing, that would really be a shame,” said McCarty.

Last weekend, the United Linen-sponsored Bartlesville squad traveled four hours to Comanche for what was supposed to be a state qualifier to an upcoming regional in Texas. The Braves arrived to find the tournament running well behind schedule.

“I was a little worried about how things might go for us after such a long trip,” McCarty said. “Especially against a team (the Wewoka Cobras) we didn’t know anything about.”

The coach said his concerns started to dissipate once the contest began. Bartlesville starter Lukas Reitfors threw four strong innings before being relieved by Pawhuska lefthander Randsom Jones — who went the last three innings of a 12-2 Braves’ triumph.

“Both pitchers looked really good for us,” said McCarty. “And, our defense has never been better — I think we only made one error the entire tournament.”

On Saturday morning, with Bartlesville facing back-to-back games, the locals were informed the tournament had been changed to a single-elimination format.

“Our guys had a built-in excuse, but they didn’t even think about losing,” McCarty said.

With solid hitting and continued strong defense, the Braves reeled off three more victories — each by a 10-run margin.

“We played two back-to-back, then had about a 35-minute break before the finals,” said the coach.

Bartlesville won its second game, 11-1, behind the pitching of Nolan Shapert, Edward Burt and Noah Yearout. Pawhuska righthander Caleb Bruce hurled the first four innings of game three, before Welch-product Chance Perry came in to finish out a 10-0 whitewash.

Against a finals’ foe called the Jayhawkers, McCarty said the Braves’ defense continued to be a key.

“Our pitchers (starter Yearout and reliever Reitfors) were able to challenge their hitters,” he said. “And, when they did hit the ball, our kids went and got it.”

McCarty mentioned nice running catches in the earlier games by outfielders Yearout and Jones. During the final contest, he said centerfielder Perry had made a diving grab in which he laid out “and looked like Superman.”

The coach added that all the Braves’ players helped keep the pressure on the opposing teams “by taking extra bases, hitting the cutoff men and doing little things that a lot of people wouldn’t even notice.”

Because of the way his team was playing, McCarty said he was almost sorry to see the Comanche tournament end.

“I really wish we could have played three or four more games to get more of our pitchers some work,” he added.

In addition to providing good pitching and defense, Bruce smashed the tourney’s only out-of-the-park home run, the coach said.

Another Pawhuska player contributing to the tourney championship was Colton Hindman, McCarty said. Hominy infielder Colt Wilson, catcher Isaiah Meisner, infielder/pitcher Grant Yardley and outfielder Stevie Glenn also drew praise from the coach.

McCarty said there is a possibility the Braves might play in a regional tourney in Arkansas, rather than in Texas.

After spending the past two years teaching and coaching in the Barnsdall, McCarty will return to the Pawhuska Public Schools this fall. Also expected back in the local system are his sons, Payton and Corbin.