SHAWNEE — There was no question who was going to get the ball for Hilldale in Saturday's Class 4A state championship game.
Hilldale coach Darren Riddle turned to his ace, Hunter Harrison, who turned in a gutty pitching performance on just one day of rest to lift the Muskogee school to its first state championship in baseball.
The Hornets didn't have an extra-base hit, scored their only runs on a wild pitch and a passed ball, but still defeated top-ranked Berryhill, 2-1, in the state title game Saturday night at Shawnee High School's Ed Skelton Field.
“That's a tribute to our defense and Hunter,” Riddle said.
Harrison fanned eight, walked just one batter and allowed only six Berryhill hits. The Chiefs' first batter of the game, Dyce Applegate, doubled and later scored on a squeeze play, but after that Harrison allowed only two Berryhill runners to reach second base.
“I started out kind of tight because of the one-day rest. I'm not used to that,” Harrison said. “I was kind of sore. But I told myself I couldn't lose this game for my team. I had to do this. As the game went on, I got stronger and stronger.”
Berryhill threatened in the seventh, putting two runners on with one out, but Harrison got the final two outs on a strikeout and a pop fly on the infield.
The junior right-hander baffled Berryhill with an outstanding curveball throughout the game.
“It was definitely working,” Riddle said. “He was getting on top of it, throwing it well, breaking it across (the plate). When he's got that going, he's pretty tough.”
Harrison improved to 12-1 on the season and avenged his only loss, a 6-0 defeat to Berryhill last month.
“Everybody kind of wants to atone for a loss,” Riddle said. “He kind of mentioned it earlier. He's just so competitive. It's hard to describe how competitive he is.”
Both Riddle and Harrison praised the Hornet defense.
“My defense really helped me,” Harrison said. “I can't say enough about them.”
Hilldale reached the state championship game by rallying from a three-run deficit in the seventh against Anadarko on Friday before winning, 6-5, in eight innings.
Berryhill had to play its semifinal against Oologah on Saturday afternoon because the game was rained out on Friday.
The Chiefs defeated Oologah, 5-1, in the semifinal but then had to immediately turn around and play the Hornets for the title.