The first words out of Asher coach Shane Coker's mouth after the Indians received the Class B fall baseball championship trophy told the story: “It's been a long time.”
Long synonymous with small-school baseball success in Oklahoma, Asher had won 43 fall or spring state titles before Saturday afternoon — but, amazingly, none since 1998. Tanner Andrews helped change that, throwing a complete-game two-hitter and driving in two runs as the Indians beat Leedey 7-0.
Sitting in the stands at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark was Murl Bowen, the legendary coach who started the championship ball rolling in 1963 at Asher. Bowen watched like a proud grandfather — literally, as his grandson, Cory Holman, started in right field and went 2-for-2 with a double, two RBIs, two walks and one run scored.
Coker played for Bowen in the late 1980s and was pleased to help restore a bit of Asher's proud tradition.
“We've been so close for three seasons and we've come up short in this game,” Coker said. “We knew coming into this year it was our year. It was going to be ours to lose. So with that mentality, we went hard all year long.”
Bowen coached 39 years at Asher before retiring suddenly during the fall 1998 season after questions arose about the eligibility of some of his players. Asher (28-6) went on to win the title that fall, but despite remaining competitive, never had been able to add title No. 44 — until Saturday.
Those titles are now evenly split between the fall and spring seasons for Asher, with 22 each.
People in Asher “expect a lot out of us and I think we showed that today,” Andrews said. “We like that pressure. We say bring it on.”
Andrews (10-3) allowed only a first-inning single by Cadan Calaway and a sixth-inning bunt single by Josh Harrel. He walked three and struck out eight as Leedey (31-11) didn't advance a runner past second base.
“We have expected great things out of Tanner all year and he has just time and time again provided them,” Coker said. “He just came out today and did his thing.”
Even though he didn't need it, the Indians gave Andrews plenty of cushion, scoring in each of the first three innings against Leedey starter Josh Harrel (5-4). Andrews hit a sacrifice fly in the first to score Caleb Dubler and Dubler's RBI single in the second scored Hunter Fowler.
Holman doubled home Trucker Lee with two outs in the third, then scored as part of a successful double steal to make it 4-0. The Indians added three runs in the sixth, one on an RBI triple to left field by Andrews.
All told, eight of the nine batters in Asher's lineup recorded at least one hit against the Bison.
So does Saturday's win mean Asher will again consistently be back in the title mix?
“Absolutely,” Coker said. “For sure, for the next few years, we've got a chance.”