FAYETTEVILLE — Sheridan baseball coach Mike Moore knew his team would see the best pitcher in the 6A-South Conference again.
The last time the Yellowjackets faced El Dorado’s Blake Clayton, they were able to beat him.
Clayton was not about to let that happen again as he did not allow a hit in the first four innings and El Dorado beat its conference counterpart 5-3 to win the Class 6A state title on Saturday at Baum Stadium.
“I know he’s the best pitcher in our conference and I knew he would be looking for revenge,” Moore said. “He’s so good, he’s got such good off-speed stuff and he hits his spots so well, and when he came out painting the corners, I knew it would be tough to get much going.”
Clayton went all seven innings and gave up three runs on five hits, walked one and struck out seven batters on 92 pitches. He also went 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored as he was named the game’s MVP.
Clayton did not walk a batter until the sixth inning and threw five straight balls before settling down. He gave up two runs in the seventh inning, but once again settled down to hold on to for the victory.
“You can’t win without pitching and that proves it right there,” El Dorado coach Sam Tyler III said. “Pitching kept us in the game and we won. Blake has been one of three pitchers giving us quality starts all year.”
While Clayton no-hit Sheridan (26-7) for four innings, El Dorado (24-6) was no-hit for three innings, but the Wildcats took advantage of a shaky start by Sheridan’s Landon Huggins.
Josey Langston reached on a fielder’s choice in the first inning and went to second on a walk to Clayton. Langston stole third on a double steal and came home on a wild pitch by Huggins, who was able to get through the second inning unscathed.
The same was not true in the third inning as Huggins walked the first batter of the inning, Ty Owens, and was pulled in favor of Grady Finley. Owens later scored on a throwing error by third baseman Josh Miller.
Of Huggins’ 42 pitches, 22 were thrown for balls. He walked three batters and hit one in two innings.
“Landon was nervous and walks and hit batters got us in a bad position,” Moore said. “They hit Grady a couple times pretty good that he pitched against them and Landon had thrown good against them. Landon pitched great to get us here.”
Tyler said he hoped his team caused Huggins’ jitters on the mound.
“We hopefully influenced that because we have speed, and when you have speed, the other teams worry about it,” he said.
El Dorado scored its third run of the game in the fifth inning as Clay Hendricks hit an RBI single to center field to score Clayton.
Sheridan responded in the bottom half of the inning as Miller led off with a single and stole second. Jake Crenshaw then bunted for a single and El Dorado third baseman Matthew Lansdell had a throwing error that scored Miller.
The Wildcats wasted little time in making up the one run and added one more. Matt Hammock led off the inning with a single and Jamie Nesbit followed by hitting the first pitch he saw into the left field bullpen for a 5-1 lead.
“Grady really came in and manned up and made just one bad pitch,” Moore said. “We just got the run and had some momentum, and gave that one bad pitch and made us pay for it.”
Tyler said that home run by Nesbit was big.
“You can never have enough home runs because until that last run is recorded, anything can happen,” he said.
The two runs proved to be useful. Miller led off the seventh inning with a home run to left-center field and Finley followed with a single. He later stole second and came in to score on Ryan Taylor’s RBI single.
But that would be all the runs Sheridan could muster in the 5-3 defeat.
“We were probably an inning late getting started,” Moore said. “If we could’ve done that in the sixth and got a couple of runs, it was hard to overcome that lead with such a good pitcher on the mound.”
Finley finished the game by giving up three runs on eight hits and struck out four batters. Miller went 2 for 3 with one RBI and two runs scored.
El Dorado 101 012 0 — 5 8 1
Sheridan 000 010 2 — 3 5 2
Blake Clayton and Dillon Smith. Landon Huggins, Grady Finley (3) and Jake Smith. W - Clayton; L - Huggins.
HR — Jamie Nesbit (ED), Josh Miller (S). SB - Josey Langston, Clayton 2 (ED); Finley, Miller (S). CS — Clayton (ED). HBP — Finley, Huggins (S).