By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
SHAWNEE — Norman North didn’t panic.
Not when they trailed by two runs in the fifth inning. Not when Bishop Kelley put the tying run on second base in the seventh inning. And not when the Comets launched what looked like it could be the game-winning hit, a deep line drive toward the left-field wall.
Instead, Tyler Bottoms calmly sprinted backwards and caught the ball over his shoulder, securing a 4-3 come-from-behind win for Norman North and a spot in the state semifinal round set to kick off at 4 p.m. today.
“They could have folded, but they didn’t,” coach Brian Aylor said of his team. “They knew they were going to win this game.”
A fifth-inning meeting marked the turning point.
Down 3-1 entering the frame, things looked grim for the Timberwolves. After allowing a run in the second inning, Bishop Kelley starter Nick Lushen had settled in and was dealing, while the Timberwolves were forced to bring in Austin Cranford to relieve Brad Kinsey in the fourth.
That was when Aylor pulled his team together in the dugout.
“I just asked them, ‘Is this it? Is this the way the story ends?’” he said. “I told them they had a huge crowd here ready to explode if they gave them a reason to do it.”
Over the next half-inning, the T-Wolves did just that.
North led off the inning with back-to-back singles into left field by Ryan McDaniel and Tyler Bottoms. The pair advanced on a groundout, and the Timberwolves plated one run on a Luke Jones sacrifice fly.
That brought Nick Basquine to the plate, and he launched a fly ball deep into right-center. Bishop Kelley’s outfielder ran toward the ball but underestimated the distance, leaving it to sail just over his glove and bring in the tying run. The Timberwolves capitalized on the mistake when Daniel Herron followed up with a triple of his own to bring in the winning run.
“When coach brought us together, that got us going,” senior DJ Gasso said. “This wasn’t going to be our last game. You could feel the momentum shift.”
After North took the lead, Cranford made sure they held it. He struck out the side in the sixth inning and worked quickly through the first two batters in the seventh before Bishop Kelley tried to mount a threat. Charlie Wrona beat out the throw to earn an infield single before taking second on a wild pitch. Josh Hassell then earned a walk to bring Sean Votaw to the plate, setting up the flyout to left field.
“I just didn’t want to be the one to let my teammates down, and Tyler made a great play in left field,” Cranford said. “I’m just glad we got the first one out of the way. It helps to settle the nerves.”
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