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June 18, 2014

Duncan survives thriller in Marlow

DUNCAN — Duncan baseball emerged victorious after a nine-inning pitchers duel against their northern Stephens County rival, Marlow, Tuesday.

After the two teams scored runs in the first two innings, the pitching staffs took over with the game ending in a 3-1 win for the visiting Demons. Senior catcher Mason Hightower broke through with a single in the top of the ninth to score senior Bryce Byford from second. Hightower had two hits in his last two at-bats. The rest of the team was 2-30 in the victory.

Hightower said the game-winning hit was a result of him not trying to do too much at the plate.

“I just tried to shorten up and put it in play,” Hightower said. “It’s nice to know all you have to do is hit a little groundball through the infield with (Byford) on second base for him to score. He plays as hard as he can.”

Even though it is just a summer game and the games will matter more in the spring, Hightower said it was important that the Demons win.

“You never want to lose a game like this,” Hightower said. “It’s always a good momentum booster to stay with it through nine and get a win.”

Senior Dylan Zawicki pitched all nine innings for Duncan. He kept his pitch count low, working ahead of most of the Marlow hitters. Despite giving up five hits, Zawicki was able to do his usual magic act to get out of a couple of tight jams early in the game.

“I was hoping we were going to win it in seven, but I wasn’t really sure,” Zawicki said. “You just got to go out there and throw with confidence. That’s all you can really do.”

Coach Tim Hightower said he knew he could rely on Zawicki to give his best effort even though the game dragged on into extra innings. He had thrown nine innings before in a 3-2 loss to Chickasha.

“Once he gets zoned in, gets both pitches working, he locates well and doesn’t walk people,” Hightower said. “That’s why he’s a winner.”

Duncan had a hitless stretch of 14 plate appearances from the third inning to the sixth where only Zawicki reached once due to being hit by a pitch. Hightower said his team just couldn’t keep the ball on the ground and out of the wind.

“I think we were trying to a little bit too much,” Hightower said. “I thought our hitters were out in front today a lot, popping the ball up. We won the game, because we hit the ball on the ground and found holes.”

Scott Cooper added to Duncan’s first lead of the game with a two-out single. The two-run deficit was too much for the Outlaws to make up in the final inning with Zawicki on the mound.

“Playing for one as an offensive strategy is a lot easier than it is playing for two,” Hightower said. “It gives you a little breathing room there to go out and play a lot more relaxed. We were fortunate to come away with a win.”

Marlow senior Brady Melton had the Demons off balance in the first four innings. He struck out five and allowed just one hit and an earned run off a squeeze bunt by Zawicki.

Sophomore Devin Crawford came in for Melton in the fifth and had his best outing of the summer. He sat down 12 of the first 13 Demons he faced, with Hightower coming up with the lone hit. In the ninth inning, he struggled.

After walking Byford to lead off the inning, Crawford threw a pitch in the dirt enabling Byford to get to second. Then, with first base open he hurled a fastball over the middle that Hightower drove to the outfield for his game-winning RBI. Coach Jeff Brewer said it was a learning moment for the young right hander.

“He has a great outing, but he makes two bad pitches,” Brewer said. “Baseball is such a slow game for people who watch it, but a fast game for the people that play it and coach it. A new situation arises every pitch.

“It’s something he’s got to learn from, because we have to learn how to win a close game.”

Marlow has split some of its recent double headers. It lost a game to each of Ardmore, Chickasha and Lone Grove. Sitting at 6-5, the Outlaws have had to deal with late-inning drama in all of their losses. Brewer says it’s part of the maturation process for a team that is relying on significant contributions from some talented freshmen.

“As we mature we’ll learn how to win those games,” Brewer said.

The seniors, Melton, Beau Meshell and Logan Knox each had at least one hit in the game. The middle of Marlow’s lineup had a strong game, with the No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters reaching six times on 12 plate appearances. But they didn’t get much support.

The bottom of the lineup, which consisted entirely of underclassmen, reached base just twice in 14 plate appearances. Brewer said that group needs to step their game up.

“What it needs to be is quality at bats,” Brewer said. “It’s got to be hit the ball hard on the ground and utilize your speed, stay within your game.”

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