By Chuck Reherman
Heading back to state.
For the first time since 2017, Yukon will take aim at a state title.
The Millers beat Choctaw 5-2 Thursday night at Miller Field to win the Region II title and earned a state berth.
YHS completed a task of beating the Yellowjackets for the fourth time in less than two weeks. The Millers had swept their two district games with CHS and beat the ‘Jackets 8-1 in the winners bracket final.
The Millers broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the seventh inning after holding off a Choctaw rally in the sixth and again in the seventh to earn the win and will rake a 31-7-1 record into the state tournament.
“Beating a team four times in two weeks is huge,” Miller head coach Kevin James said. “They have seen everything we have done as we did them. Beating somebody twice is one thing, beating them three times in tough, but to beat them four teams is really something.
“Choctaw has a good bunch, they can play and one through nine can swing the bat,” he said. “The first baseman is a sophomore and they don’t lose anyone, all they guys they played are underclassmen. The kid they threw at us was a freshman or a sophomore. We have a bunch of pups too. It was a big ball game and a good ball game.
“I told our coaches we are starting to peck away and put some balls in play and we did. It was just a fun game and one we can talk about for a while.”
With the game tied, it looked like Choctaw was going to be the first to break the tie, loading the bases with two out in the bottom of the sixth inning. But Hunter Williams got a called third strike to get out of the inning.
The Millers came up with two key hits in the seventh inning that led to four runs and opened a 5-1 advantage.
With runners at first and second with no out, Tyler Collins stepped in and after squaring around to bunt, saw Choctaw’s defense come charging in. He pulled the bat back and hit a line drive to shallow right field, driving in Trevin Pettigrew (who had walked) with the go-ahead run.
Carson Lee followed with a double to the left centerfield gap to plate two more and open a 4-1 lead. Parker Means’ sacrifice fly brought home the fourth run of the inning.
Choctaw did make a bid at a comeback, getting the first two batters on base and scoring one of a sacrifice fly.
But, the Millers ended the game by pulling off a double play. A fly ball into centerfield was hauled in by Aiden Alexander and the third CHS out came when the umpires ruled the runner had left second base too early on the fly ball.
“It got a little nervous there in the last couple of innings,” James said. “We made a good pitch and struck a guy out looking to get out of the sixth inning. Our guys have faced good people all year long and are very well battle tested. It was a huge moment, there were several huge moments in the game and I was very proud of how they went about their business and stay hooked up. Great ball game.
“Tyler’s hit reminded me of when Brandon (now assistant coach Ruiz) was a junior, Chad (James) was pitching against Enid up on the hill. Brandon gets up and they kept charging their infielders in whenever we squared around to bunt and I made a deal where of they came in on top of us, pull the bat back and let it eat. Brandon pulled the bat back, hit a triple and we beat them. We have been working in this all year long and we had talked about if they came charging in, we didn’t know if they were going to do it because they hadn’t shown it. That was a huge hit out of a sophomore. That was big time.
“We have some speed on the bases, got some runs and we got a good pitching performance out of Trevin and Hunter came in and closed the door in that one inning and Josh (Holton) came in and did a good job.”
The Millers had broken a scoreless tie in the fifth inning on an RBI double by Lee. Lee drove in Nick Scavitto, who had singled.
Choctaw though, tied the game in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Dylan Boles.
The Millers had reached the championship game by beating Choctaw 8-1 in the winners bracket final. YHS had opened the tournament with a 17-0 win over Northwest Classen.
The Millers broke open a 2-1 game with the ‘Jackets, scoring four runs in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh to put the contest out of reach.
“It got a little tight there, but we got some hits there late with two out and drove in runs,” Miller head coach Kevin James said. “We got a good bunt down and came up with some two-out hits that gave us a lead. We do have to do a better job of not chasing pitches.
“Carson threw really well, he had a bunch of strikeouts (16),” he said. “We made a nice play defensively and couldn’t get to our feet and still had a chance. We had a chance to get out of it and not give them a run.
“This is a huge win for us. We are in the driver’s seat and can sit back and watch two games. Norman North has to win two games to get to us (the beat Northwest Classen in one of those) and Choctaw has to win one to get to us. The driver’s seat is a good thing right now.”
A double by Parker Means and RBI singles from Aiden Alexander and Carson Benge drove in runs and opened a 6-1 lead. Carson Lee’s two-run home run in the top of the seventh basically put the game out of reach. Pettigrew had doubled and Lee’s home run came on a 1-0 pitch.
with two out.