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Elgin captures District 5A-2 baseball title with doubleheader sweep at Lawton MacArthur

Pitcher Jake Thomas shuts down MacArthur in first game; Owls hold off Highlanders in second

By Glen Brockenbush 

LAWTON - With impending bad weather on the horizon, Elgin and Lawton MacArthur opted to play their two-game district series all in one night and all at one location.

Instead of playing at Elgin on Monday and in Lawton on Tuesday, the schools agreed by lunchtime on Monday to play both games on Monday at MacArthur’s home field.

It didn’t seem to affect Elgin. 

But by the end of Monday’s first game, Elgin already knew it was district champion, as the Owls thrashed MacArthur, 9-0, in Game 1, while Noble, the only team capable of catching Elgin, lost the first game of its doubleheader against Duncan.

Game 2 offered more of a challenge, as the Highlanders capitalized on some early Elgin mistakes to take a quick lead. But a home run by James Vanderpool helped the Owls regain the lead and momentum.

Grady Thomas came on in relief to finish off a 3-2 win for Elgin.

Elgin earned a district championship in just its second year in Class 5A. It is also the baseball program’s first district title under head coach Levi Garrett, a feat even the Owls’ 2018 state championship-winning side didn’t accomplish.

MacArthur secured the fourth spot in the district playoff race. Regionals will begin next week.

Elgin 9, Lawton MacArthur 0 (Game 1)

After a scoreless first inning, the Owls got the runs going in the second. James Vanderpool and Tres Lorah were both hit by pitches and Jake Thomas walked to load the bases.

Nocona Tahdooanippah drove home Vanderpool and Lorah. A wild pitch and a bases-loaded walk later brought home more runs in the inning.

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In the third, Vanderpool doubled home Ritson Meyer to make it 5-0. Damien Callagy added to the tally in the fourth, driving home Grady Thomas and Brody Morrison.

Meyer began the top of the seventh with a double and scored on a Vanderpool single. Vanderpool later moved to third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Lorah.

On the mound, Elgin’s Jake Thomas was outstanding, surrendering just one hit through the first five innings, before allowing the Highlanders two more hits in the final two innings. Garrett said Thomas, who is the team’s regular catcher when he’s not pitching, was going to pitch Game 1 of the series, regardless of where it was played and when it was played.

“I haven’t played the matchup game all year. Jake is my Game 1 guy,” Garrett said. “I like throwing him (on Mondays), that way I can have him to catch on Day 2.

"I don’t want him to squat for seven innings and then the next day, ask him to pitch for seven innings."

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With the game well in hand, Garrett and his staff knew the district crown was theirs, but didn’t say anything out loud that might distract their team. Clearly, the Owls entered the game focused on one thing, and it wasn’t the sudden schedule and venue change.

“They were ready to go,” Garrett said. "As soon as they got on the bus, they were ready.

"They’re always ready. That wasn’t an issue.”

Elgin 3, Lawton MacArthur 2 (Game 2)

Two walks and a bunt base hit loaded the bases with no outs for the Highlanders to start the game.

Elgin’s freshman pitcher Ritson Meyer then balked on what was going to be a walk of Rhett Vaughan anyway, bringing home the game’s first run. But that was all MacArthur could muster, leaving the bases loaded as the top of the first ended.

MacArthur pitcher Karson Christian got Elgin into two outs in the first, but Vanderpool hammered a ball deep to center field for a two-run homer to give the Owls a 2-1 advantage.

Tres Lorah got on board and later scored when Mac catcher Julian Love tried to throw out base runner Jake Thomas (who was safe at second), while Lorah, on third, made a break for home.

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The Highlanders got runners on base in the second, but squandered the opportunity, scoring no runs.

They were also held scoreless in the top of the third. They cut into the lead in the top of the fourth when MacArthur senior Aiden Veld belted a solo homer to make it 3-2.

That remained the score deep into the game. Meyer and reliever Grady Thomas kept the MacArthur bats relatively quiet, while Christian reciprocated on the mound for Mac.

The Highlanders entered the top of the seventh needing a run to tie the game. The first batter of the inning, Veld, got hit by a pitch, and was replaced at first base by pinch runner Spencer Thurman.

Thatcher Zeller’s sacrifice bunt moved Thurman along to second as the top of the order came up. However, Kage Zeller flied out to third base and Boux DeLong struck out looking to end the game.

For Elgin (25-7, 13-1), the victories had several different meanings. They captured a district championship, ensuring themselves of a home regional and setting up a comfortable path to a state tournament berth.

But the wins also came against a rival school less than 20 miles away. And the Owls’ form (14-2 in April) make them a serious contender in Class 5A.

“It’s huge. I’m so excited,” Jake Thomas said. “We get to host our regionals, we’re going to play like we’ve been playing all season, hopefully go to state and then, who knows what happens if we make it to state?"