A night meaning more than baseball, the East/West Senior All-Star game allowed area players one final game with their friends.
Seniors from Ardmore, Lone Grove, Plainview, Sulphur, Dickson, Ringling, Tishomingo and Durant participated in the contest at Valero Park at Ardmore High School.
Plainview’s Drake Harper escaped a bases-loaded jam to earn the save for the East, 4-3 winners on Thursday.
Seniors from Tishomingo, Plainview, Ringling and Durant comprised the East team.
Ardmore, Lone Grove and Sulphur represented the West squad.
No college coaches attended, but a couple of area players have meetings scheduled at local institutions, where they could continue their playing careers.
Harper said he has an opportunity at Grayson College in Denison, Texas.
“I’m going to have a talk with the coaches,” he said. “I’m supposed to practice in front of them. Whether it works out or not, that’s probably where I’ll go. I’ll probably try to walk on if I can’t get a scholarship or anything, but hopefully that’s what’ll happen.”
Harper pitched the seventh inning, in possession of a two-run lead. Lone Grove’s Tanner Vernon led off with an infield single, and promptly stole second base. His teammate, Aaron Hamilton, won his lengthy at-bat by drawing a walk. With one out, Ardmore’s Chris Hall was hit by a pitch to load the bases. The Longhorns’ Dillon Atkinson plated Vernon with an RBI as he wore a pitch from Harper.
Harper struck out the next two hitters to secure the save.
“I really wanted this game,” Harper said. “You start thinking too much, put pressure on yourself, it’s just no good.
“This is the last time I’ll get to play with these guys. I knew pretty much everybody on both teams. They’re all my friends. I enjoyed being with them, and it was fun.”
Hall, technically the losing pitcher, said he has a tryout at Redlands Community College in El Reno on June 2. He said the future will be contingent upon his performance there.
“I believe I’m capable of being good enough,” he said. “That’s going to be my next step.”
Hall said the experience was invaluable.
“It’s a one-time deal,” Hall said. “It’s a great experience to have. It’s something that every high school player dreams of having. It’s fun playing with all of your friends, especially a big fun game. It wasn’t all serious. We just had a lot of fun. That’s pretty a good moment for us. What better finish can you have than playing with all your friends on the field that you played on for four years? It was a great feeling, and I’ll definitely miss it.”
He wanted to make a statement with the chance he had.
“That’s all my buddies,” he said. “I wanted to show them how to get after it a little bit. I believe I threw pretty well. Drake, he’s a good competitor and one of my good friends.
“I look forward to moving on to the next step, and hopefully getting to play against those guys again, one of these days.”
Three runs in the bottom of the first frame proved to be too much for the West to overcome. Hall retired the side in order an inning later. He joked with his catcher, Lone Grove’s Jacob Stewart, and Coach Corey Cole that the Longhorns’ backstop did not call enough change-ups.
“I was joking with him,” Hall said. “I told him he could call it. I didn’t know if I could throw it for a strike or not, but I wanted to work all my pitches a little bit and see what happens. We made the adjustment in the second inning, and had a lot of fun.”
Plainview’s Gus Wells started on the bump for the East, and he threw three innings to earn the win.
Meanwhile, Dickson’s Chandler Smith has a full-ride scholarship to Connors State College in Warner.
“I can’t thank my parents and my girlfriend, and all of them who pushed me to make me want to go play, especially collegiate ball,” Smith said. “It’s an opportunity that I’ll take advantage of, go up there, play ball for two years.
“I can’t thank my coaches (enough). They all pushed me, told me it was a great decision to go.”
Smith was happy he played.
“It was a good experience. I grew up playing ball against all these kids,” Smith said. “It was nice to come out and play one last game with all of them before I leave. I’ll be gone for a year. I’m glad I was able to play.”