SHAWNEE — Having already played for the state championship in football and basketball this season, Anadarko was just three outs of way from completing the trifecta in baseball.
The Warriors entered the bottom of the seventh in Friday's Class 4A semifinal with a three-run lead, but Hilldale rallied to tie the game then won it in the eighth, 6-5, to advance to Saturday's state championship game.
“We just weren't quite able to finish it,” Anadarko coach Mike Sparks said. “Give them credit. They got hits when they needed to get hits.”
Hilldale loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh on an error and two singles, then scored three times courtesy of a walk, a hit batsman and a double play.
Kolby Williams, Anadarko's third pitcher of the seventh inning, was able to get the final out on a pop up to send the game into extra innings, but wasn't able to get an out in the eighth.
Hilldale loaded the bases in the eighth on a hit batsman, an error and a single before Miles Jackson delivered the game winner with a sharp single past Anadarko first baseman Russell Mithlo.
“I've been a through a couple of those type of games before but never in the state tournament,” said Hilldale coach Darren Riddle, whose Hornets improved to 26-7 on the season.
Hilldale made its rally just in time. It began to rain in Hornets' half of the seventh, and Riddle worried the umpires might call the game.
“The umpires said if it started raining they were going to put the tarp on and it didn't start raining until we were hitting in the seventh,” he said. “You never know what is going to happen, when they are going to call it. I know that it is tough for their guys to go out there and throw strikes (in the rain). It's unfortunate for them, but obviously good for us.”
As soon as the game ended after the eighth inning, the tarp was immediately put on the field and the other Class 4A semifinal between Oologah and Berryhill was delayed by rain. The Oologah-Berryhill game was postponed until 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The championship game will be played 30-45 minutes after the conclusion of that game.
Sparks, however, said the weather wasn't a factor in the outcome.
“I don't think you can say it affected the pitching,” Sparks said of the seventh-inning showers. “If you blame it on the weather, you are taking something away from Hilldale and I'm not going to do that.”
Anadarko shortstop Tanner Dearman, a Wichita State signee, drove in three runs with a single and triple in the game, but grounded out with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh as the Warriors missed an opportunity to extend their lead.
Starting pitcher Dalton Cunningham went the distance for Hilldale, fanning nine. Anadarko starter Dillon Free allowed only five hits through six innings, but he couldn't record an out in the seventh.
Anadarko's senior class will finish their career as a state champion in football, a state runner-up in basketball and a state semifinalist in baseball.
“Since they were seventh graders, everybody that coached in that school knew these kids were coming and were all excited,” Sparks said. “They didn't let anybody down. When they get past the hurt of losing this one, they will look back and realize what a career they had and what a year they had.”