In the past two years, the Southern Financial Group Ardmore Cardinals have found themselves behind the eight-ball early at the American Legion state tournament. Both the 2010 and 2011 squads lost their opening contests, forcing the teams to battle back through the consolation bracket of the tournament.
Things didn’t change Wednesday, as the Cardinals dropped an 11-7 contest to the Oklahoma City Bulls at Oklahoma City University.
“This is the third straight year we’ve lost in the first round, so hopefully we can get back on track,” head coach Jake Melton said. “We feel good about where our pitching is at, we just have to get started more quickly.”
The team certainly struggled with that Wednesday, falling into a 9-0 hole after the first five innings. Melton felt his team hit the ball well, but was simply unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
The numbers bear it out, with the Cardinals stranding nine runners in the first five innings, and hitting into four double plays for the game.
“We hit a lot of balls hard, they just found gloves,” Melton said.
Meanwhile, the hot Bulls managed to find the gaps in the Ardmore defense, slicing up starter Brian Greisman through the first four innings.
Greisman finished after allowing seven runs on seven hits while striking out five against four walks.
“He battled, they just hit so many balls in the hole and the other way,” Melton said. “He gave us a chance, but it was just one of those days when everything went through.”
The Cardinals nearly pulled off a miraculous late rally, thanks to the efforts of Cash Miller, who bashed a grand slam as part of a five-run eighth inning that narrowed the score to 9-7 heading into the final frame.
Unfortunately, the Bulls tacked on two insurance runs while Ardmore was unable to find more offense in the ninth.
Miller finished 2-for-3 with a double and the grand slam, tallying five RBIs, while Carson McPherson added a triple for Ardmore.
The Cardinals will look to bounce back in a game tonight at 8 p.m.