By T. Scott Boatright
SULPHUR — Eventually the age-old proverb always comes true — all good things come to an end at some point.
The same goes for great teams on incredible runs, too.
That was a lesson learned by the top-seeded and two-time defending state champion Choudrant High School baseball team on Friday as the Aggies fell 4-3 in nine innings to fifth-seeded Anacoco in the semifinals of the Nonselect School Division V Championships at McMurray Park.
Mother Nature played a key role in the Aggies’ downfall as they jumped out to an early 3-0 advantage, but after a 1:50 lightning delay, Choudrant never managed to get back on track.
“It’s tough to keep playing tough opponents and just keep winning and winning and never have a slip-up,” said Aggies coach Joel Antley. “That rain delay really hurt us. I felt like we had the momentum. I thought their pitcher wasn’t throwing very good, but when we came back after the delay, he was throwing good.
“I mean, it was like a completely different pitcher after that delay. But it all boils down to after that break, we didn’t score a run.”
Antley admitted the loss was tough for his four seniors — Landon Hennen, Bryce McGuire, Gavin Murphy and Kaden Bradshaw — as well as all the other Aggies, who saw their season end at 28-5.
“For a lot of them, it’s their first playoff loss ever,” Antley said. “I told them and I’ll tell everybody, I’m not sure you can get a much better career than losing 15 games in three years, and making the state tournament all three times with two championships and the semifinals.
“When you get down there to the state tournament, you’re playing nothing but the top guys — the best opponents. To get beat on time in three years is obviously not what you hope for, but it’s tough to be perfect all the time.”
Choudrant did start the game in almost perfect fashion, taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first after Hennen led off by reaching first on a fielding error and advancing to single on a McGuire single.
Murphy followed that up with a single of his own that loaded the bases before Hennen scored on a sacrifice fly by Bradshaw.
Mike Jones hit a two-out slow dribbler to third that looked at first to have brought in two more runs before umpires waved off the second score after determining the ball had hit Carson Carrico’s foot (Carrico was pinch running and sent him back to third base) and the Indians picked up the final out to hold the Aggies to a two-run opening stanza.
Choudrant’s third run came in the bottom of the second inning as Eli Callender led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt hit by Wade Watson before eventually scoring on a sacrifice fly hit by Hennen.
Then Mother Nature jumped into the contest, dampening Choudrant’s momentum with the long delay.
McGuire was strong in his five innings of work on the mound for the Aggies, striking out three batters and working himself out of a jam in the top of the fifth, only allowing five hits and no runs on 66 pitches before Hennen came on in relief.
But the Aggies failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities they had in the bottom of the fifth, leaving three runs stranded.
Hennen and McGuire switched positions at the top of the sixth, with Hennen moving to the mound and McGuire taking over at shortstop.
But Hennen struggled early on the mound, giving up three runs on two hits and an error as Anacoco tied things up 3-3.
Bradshaw led off the bottom of the seventh with a standup double, but the Aggies failed to push him across the plate as the game moved to extra innings.
Choudrant had its chances again in the bottom of the eighth as the Aggies loaded the bases but again left three baserunners stranded to push the game into the top of the ninth.
The Aggies left 13 baserunners stranded overall.
The Indians plated the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth, but the Aggies still got another chance to tie things up in the bottom half of the inning as Mike Jones singled and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt.
But Choudrant’s dreams of a “threepeat” were then squashed as Jones was picked off trying to steal third base as Colton Smith’s groundout sent the Indians into celebration mode.
“That was missed signals,” Antley said of Jones’ baserunning miscue. “But I told them, it’s not Mike’s fault. Landon gave up more runs than he gave up all year, but it’s not his fault. Colton went 0-for at the plate, and it ain’t his fault.
“We win as a team and we lose as a team. Today we finally ended up on the losing end.”
Anacoco will play No. 3 Pitkin in the Division V Nonselect state championship at 11 a.m. Friday.