|Oklahoma's Premier Summer Baseball Program||Thursday, September 03, 2015|
ELK CITY - The old adage in baseball is that pitching and defense will win you championships and the Oklahoma Travelers definitely took that to heart for the second straight weekend.
The Travelers finished off an incredible 7-0 run through the power-packed Route 66 Classic Sunday afternoon at Ackley Park with a 9-1 run-rule victory over the Burkburnett Blacksox in the tournament championship game.
In seven tournament contests, the Elk City squad got sensational performances from a pitching staff that allowed an amazing seven total runs in seven contests against some of the best teams in this region of the country.
"It was definitely one of the most incredible pitching performances I've ever seen by a club in the 19 years of this tournament," head coach Mark Ward said. "We took on some of the best teams in the country and our pitching staff wasn't giving an inch. They made the pitches when they had to and our defense made the plays behind them.
"I don't know if these kids really realize the magnitude of what they accomplished this weekend. There have been very few teams that have run the table and go 7-0 against the type of competition we have every year in this tournament. I am extremely proud of them."
While running their winning streak to 13 straight contests, the Travelers improved to 47-10 on the season and captured the Traveler Invitational title for just the second time in the team's illustrious history.
For their efforts on the mound, the entire pitching staff garnered Co-Most Valuable Player honors for the event.
The title game was just a microcosm of the entire tournament for the Travelers as Landon Scales needed just 79 pitches to go the distance for the second time in the Classic. He also pitched a complete game shutout against Colorado power Cherry Creek on Thursday night.
Scales yielded eight hits to the strong hitting Blacksox but he continually battled out of tight spots throughout the contest, striking out four and didn't walk a batter.
Defense set the tone for the game in the opening inning and probably should have been a sign of things to come for Burkburnett.
Ryan Pack started the game with a bunt single and Blake Hughes was then hit by a pitch to put Scales in an early jam.
With the runners moving, John Herbert laced a Scales offering to the right-centerfield gap that was almost assuredly going to fall and allow two runs to score.
Centerfielder Matt Stout had other ideas, making the catch of the tournament on the run and then firing to second to double off Pack.
After a scoreless first, the Traveler offense went to work in the second stanza, pushing across five runs to take command.
Timmy Sullivan opened with a single to left and was forced out at second on a fielder's choice. Levi Garrett and Chelo Gonzales followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases and Chance Gerloff coaxed a walk to force in the first run.
Stout hit into a fielder's choice which allowed another run to score and after a wild pitch scored a third, Brett Case kept the pressure on with a RBI double. He scored two pitches later on a Burkburnett error.
Elk City padded the lead in the fifth when Cody Merrell tripled down the right field line to score Matt Yost with two outs.
After the Blacksox plated their lone run in the top of the sixth on the strength of three singles, the Travelers put the title away with three runs in the bottom of the frame.
Noah Booth and Garrett drew free passes and Gonzales jammed the sacks with a single to right. Gerloff was hit by a pitch to force in the first tally and Stout belted a sacrifice fly to plate the second. Case then finished it off with a RBI single to left.
Case, Merrell and Gonzales led the hitting parade with two apiece. Case drove in a pair of runs, as did Gerloff.
In the semifinals earlier Sunday, the Travelers rode the splendid three-hit pitching performance of Booth to a 4-0 whitewashing of the defending American Legion state champion Midwest City Outlaws.
Booth struck out eight and walked five but was in complete control for his second pitching win of the tournament. The Outlaws had just three base runners that advanced past first base the entire game.
The Travelers scored all the runs they would need in the first inning as Case beat out a bunt single with one out and raced all the way around on a triple to the wall by Yost. The University of Arkansas signee scored two pitches later on a passed ball.
Elk City added another run in the fifth when Stout doubled, advanced on a Case single and scored on a wild pitch.
The final run came via the long ball when Sullivan smashed a solo home run off Midwest City ace Richard Brashears to lead off the sixth.
Case finished with three hits in three at-bats to spark the Travelers at the plate.
In the final game of pool action on Saturday, the Travelers also dispatched Midwest City, rallying for a 4-3 victory.
Case was the pitching benefactor in that one, firing two strong innings of relief in which the southpaw fanned four batters to pick up the win.
The Travelers jumped out to a quick lead in the contest as Stout led off the game with a walk and eventually scored on a two-out single from Sullivan.
They got another run in the second when Scales, Gerloff and Stout strung together consecutive singles with two outs.
Midwest City rallied with a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to put the Travelers behind for amazingly the only time in the entire tournament.
It was short-lived however, as Booth singled with one away in the bottom of the stanza and Gonzales was called on to pinch run.
Garrett came through with a clutch two-strike single and Scales followed with a game-tying base hit to rightfield.
In the seventh, Case reached on a fielder's choice and stole second with one out, advancing to third on a throwing error.
The Outlaws elected to intentionally walk Yost and Merrell to set up a force at the plate.
Reliever Chris Cochell struck out Sullivan but was wild against Gonzales, who worked a walk to plate the winning run.
Scales led the way at the plate in the contest with two singles, a RBI and one run scored.
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