|Oklahoma's Premier Summer Baseball Program||Thursday, February 11, 2016|
JOPLIN, Mo. - The Oklahoma Traveler baseball team culminated an improbable journey through the regional tournament loser's bracket Sunday to advance on to the NABF World Series beginning Thursday in Ontario, Canada.
The Travelers used a dramatic comeback in Sunday's opener, rallying past the previously unbeaten St. Louis Redbirds for an 8-6 win in nine innings. Elk City then finished it off with a 10-0 run-rule thumping of the Redbirds in the if-necessary game to improve to 60-13 on the season and take home the regional title.
"It was definitely a total team effort," head coach Mark Ward said. "These kids had every opportunity with all the adversity we faced in the tournament to just give up, but they refused to do that. They fought back with everything they had and I am extremely proud of all of the them."
Things looked pretty bleak for the Travelers' hopes in the initial contest on Sunday, trailing the St. Louis squad by a 6-1 margin heading into the sixth inning.
Despite being down to its final six outs in the scorching heat and humidity, which saw the heat index hit over 110 on Sunday, the Elk City squad refused to fold.
Noah Booth led off the sixth with a single, Cody Merrell drew a walk and Timmy Sullivan plated a pair of runs with a double to left. Brad Boles followed with another double to cut the margin to 6-4.
Chelo Gonzales and Brett Case also chipped in RBI doubles before the inning was over, helping knot the score at 6-6.
The Travelers then dodged a major bullet in the bottom of the seventh with St. Louis' E.J. Basta at third with the winning run and two outs in the frame.
Booth coaxed a groundball from Spencer Thomson, which Landon Scales had to make a diving stab at. From his knees, Scales then shoveled to second to just nip Geoff Takavitz for the third out and keep the Traveler season alive.
After a scoreless eighth, the Travelers came alive in the ninth to take the lead for good as Case belted a double to start the frame and Sullivan slapped another two-run double with one out for an 8-6 advantage.
That was all Booth needed as the southpaw All-Stater struck out two of the final three batters of the game to notch the victory with 7 1/3 sensational innings of relief. He did not allow a run and fanned five.
Case was the offensive leader with two doubles, a home run and two RBI. Sullivan chipped in a pair of doubles and four batted in while Boles contributed two hits, including a double and RBI.
The second game wasn't nearly as suspenseful as the Redbirds were out of pitching and the Travelers had Scales ready to go.
The Lookeba-Sickles graduate avenged an opening round loss to St. Louis by firing a five-hit shutout and in the process notch his 10th win of the season.
Elk City pushed across five runs in the first, two in the second, one in the third and two finally in the sixth while pounding 18 hits in the run-rule victory.
Chelo Gonzales sparked the offense with four hits, including a double and RBI. Case tossed in three hits in four at-bats while Matt Stout, Booth, Boles, Yost and Sullivan added two safeties apiece.
In Saturday's elimination games, the Travelers utilized more outstanding pitching as A.J. Juarez picked up a 7-4 win over Excelsior Springs, Missouri, while Case scattered seven hits in a 12-2 complete game win over the Kansas City Sluggers.
Against Excelsior, the Travelers got off to a fast start, scoring two runs in each of the first two frames and two more in the fourth to cruise from there.
Case topped the offensive attack with three hits while Booth and Levi Garrett chipped in a pair apiece and Stout added a double and a triple.
Stout meanwhile had another outstanding performance against the Sluggers, belting three hits, including a monster 415-foot grand slam home run over the centerfield wall in the third.
Yost finished with three hits as well while Booth and Scales ended with two apiece.
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