East Central (Mo.) provided a double inspiration in eliminating national runner-up Western Oklahoma, 6-5 from the Plains District Baseball Tournament Friday at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.

The Falcons are a program that was rejuvenated this year after a 20-year absence. They will face the Arkansas-Rich Mountain and Murray State loser at 1 p.m. Saturday

Cristian Rodriguez, born without a left hand threw three and one-third innings of two-hit relief to keep a hold on a 5-2 lead. He struck out four and did not walk a batter. He left the game with two out in the ninth after giving up a double to Munoz.

East Central coach Johnathan Mills said he doesn’t look at Rodriguez as handicapped but as one of his team’s best pitchers.

“The biggest thing about him is that he is a competitor,’’ Mills said. “If anybody thinks he is going to be challenged in any way, they are doing the wrong thing. He is an elite pitcher. If he dedicates himself to getting stronger and doing some of the things he needs to do, he will have a chance to pitch four years in college and a long time after that.’’

Rodriguez was off the mound quickly to throw out Jose Vargas on a bunt attempt in the seventh. He picked off Cristian Munoz trying to steal third later in the inning.

“He’s got a pitch mix that most college hitters struggle to handle,’’ Mills said. “He is everything you want in a college player. You can’t generalize him. He is one heckuva of a pitcher and I’m thankful he is on our side.’’

Western made things interesting against closer Shane Kerbey after a walk, a single by Tyrig Kemp and a Texas League by Adonys Herrera brought in two more runs to cut the lead to 6-5 with runners on second and third. Angel Polaco grounded out to end the game.

“Shane was the right guy to go to,’’ Mills said. “We were fortunate to pull it out against a good program. We’re thankful we’re still here.’’

Tyson Dent gave the Falcons an insurance run when he doubled in a run in the ninth. Seth Shannon’s two-run homer in the first gave East Central a 2-0 lead which it would not relinquish.

Starter Alfred Ulloa allowed four hits and two runs over five and one-third innings before giving way to Rodriguez. He struck out four,

“We were fortunate to have our best arms for today,’’ Mills said.


Fox Locke went three for four with a homer, double, four RBI and three runs scored as South Arkansas eliminated National Park, 14-4 in the other losers bracket game.

The Stars will face Carl Albert at 10 a.m. Saturday.

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Campbell is a former sports writer and current part-time writer for the News & Eagle.

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Graduate of Oklahoma City John Marshall (1972) and University of Oklahoma. Been at News & Eagle since June 19, 1978. Previously worked at Oklahoma Journal, Midland, Texas Reporter & Telegram, Norman Transcript, Elk City Daily News

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