By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Tristen Epperson stole a look at the bullpen in the fifth inning, where he saw Jason Burt warming up. The sight was enough to add even another layer of intensity for Epperson, who had pitched Norman High to a three-run lead before a walk and an error put Norman North in a prime position to tie the game.
“There was no way I wasn’t finishing this game,” Epperson said. “I knew I needed to get my stuff together.”
He did. Epperson forced North into a pair of harmless infield flyouts, and he cruised the rest of the way, allowing just two hits in a 7-3 victory that wrapped up the season sweep for NHS in the Crosstown Clash.
“I think it’s the most monumental thing we’ve done as a team,” said Epperson, who struck out four batters in becoming the second Tiger pitcher in as many nights to go the distance in a win over their rivals. “Usually I’m pretty collected, but I was nervous and so excited out there on the mound.”
While Epperson was dealing on one end, the Tigers provided the punch on the other. Sean Dixson led the way with a two-run bomb over the left-field wall in the second inning that put NHS on top 5-0, and they withstood the North rally a few innings later.
“It’s tough to do anything against a good club like that,” NHS coach Pete Sangirardi said of North while his team posed with brooms to celebrate their first sweep of the series in any of their careers. “There’s a lot of respect between the two programs, and our kids did a great job of battling.”
Saving its top two pitchers for a district showdown with Westmoore next week, North was in an uphill battle against NHS from the start. And, while the T-Wolves’ staff did its best, the four pitchers who took the mound couldn’t match Epperson, who was playing in front of a home crowd.
But after falling behind early, North did fight back and looked poised to tie the game up when Brad Kinsey doubled in a run with no outs in the fifth inning and Nick Basquine walked. But Epperson forced the T-Wolves into three infield outs that stifled the threat, and NHS responded with a pair of runs in the sixth inning to put some insurance on the victory.
“You’ve got to tip your hats to them,” North coach Brian Aylor said after the game. “We’re a good baseball team that didn’t play good baseball the last two days. But we have very specific goals, and a plan to achieve those goals. The important thing for us is that no one got injured. It’s tough for the players, but now we’re healthy and rested to come back next week and try to accomplish our first goal of winning the district.”
Follow me @Chosler88
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.