By Christian Potts
The Norman Transcript
EDMOND — As the lone senior on the Noble baseball team, Jimmy Wood was going to do whatever it took to make the school’s first state baseball tournament appearance in 18 years last a while.
And he sure backed it up with performance. Wood gave the Bears 4 2-3 innings of shutout relief pitching and drove in all three runs Thursday, including the game winner in the top of the 7th inning, lifting Noble past Deer Creek 3-2 in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A State Tournament at Edmond Santa Fe.
“I just wanted it,” Wood said. “This is everything we’ve worked for. I’m just trying to do anything I can to keep us going.”
The Bears broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh to win it. Braden Buol singled to left-center, then moved up on a perfect sacrifice bunt by nine-hole hitter Alec Venegas.
Wood didn’t wait long from there, crushing Deer Creek reliever Ben Heigle’s first pitch to deep left-center for a double, easily scoring Buol.
“He had thrown me three straight curve balls the first time and I struck out, so I knew that was what was coming,” Wood said.
From there it came down to Wood’s right arm. He has worked primarily in short relief late in games for the Bears but on this day was called on earlier by Coach Brad Anglin. The Antlers had tied the game at 2-2 in the third and still had the bases loaded with just one out off starter Derek Underwood, outstanding to this point of the season in getting the Bears here.
No worries, as Wood struck out Tucker Fox and Peyton Blass to get out of it.
“Normally I come in for the sixth or seventh inning, but today it was just about doing what I had to,” Wood said.
On the day, Wood struck out six, walked just one and gave up one hit, a seventh-inning single by Dylan Rycroft. Two batters later, Buol, the Noble third baseman, tagged out Rycroft for the final out and a landmark win for the Bears’ program.
Noble (33-4) came in ranked No. 5 in the state and, ranking-wise, the underdog against the No. 3 Antlers (27-9). But they kept coming up with the answers, doing all the little things to find the win.
A two-out rally got Noble going in the second inning. Designated hitter Casey Harris reached on an error, Buol singled and Venegas was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
That brought up Wood, the Bears’ leadoff hitter, who fell into an 0-2 count against Deer Creek starter Michael Brinska. But after fouling off two more pitches, Wood turned on one into the left field corner to score Harris and Buol for a 2-0 lead.
Wood retired nine of the first 10 batters he saw, the one runner wiped out on a strikeout and throw-out double play as Underwood, who moved to catcher after leaving the mound, threw out Rycroft trying to steal.
Heigle was just as good, retiring nine straight Bears, once aided by an appeal after Cory Jennings’ sixth-inning double was wiped out when it was ruled he didn’t touch first base. But the one big double by Wood in the final inning did count, and was the blow that lifted the Bears to victory.
Noble advances to face the winner of the Pryor/Carl Albert game at 4 p.m. Friday at Santa Fe.
It’s another big step in what’s been an outstanding year for athletics at Noble. The football team had one of its best campaigns in some time, the boys basketball team reached the Class 5A State Tournament, the girls soccer team went undefeated in the regular season and five Bears reached the state wrestling tournament.
“Our whole community has just come together and supported us and really bought into what we are doing,” said Wood, who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards on that NHS football team.
They’ll have at least one more day to enjoy it.