ENID, Okla. — Oklahoma Drillers coach Bryce Scalf had no doubts about going with Drummond's Brandon Coontz against Phenom 17 of Texas in the first round of the AABC South Plains Regional Tournament at David Allen Memorial Ballpark Wednesday.
"I started him because I believed in him,'' Scalf said. "He's a competitor. He wanted the ball.''
Coontz lived up to Scalf's expectations allowing only two hits and one run while striking out three and walking one over five innings in a 3-1 Drillers' win. He had a hit in his only at-bat.
"I did exactly what I was supposed to do today for the team,'' he said. "I know what I'm capable of doing. As long as I do it, I know I would be OK. We played them in Texas last week (a 3-1 win). We knew they were a decent team and we had to come out here and compete.''
Coontz kept Phenom off balance with his slider. His defense, which included Drummond teammates catcher Wyatt Gray and shortstop Seth Gray, did not commit an error behind him.
"I felt like I could command my slider for a strike,'' he said. "I knew they were a really good team. I just tried to keep them off balance with my slider and mix it up.''
"His slider kept them off balance,'' Wyatt Gray said. "The best thing about him is his off-speed stuff.''
Coontz came into the game confident, relaxed and with an attitude.
"You could tell Brandon had a chip on his shoulder," Seth Gray said. "From the get go, he did exactly what he was supposed to do. We threw strikes and mixed it up with a slider.''
"Anytime I throw, I have a chip on my shoulder," Coontz said. "Bryce said I wouldn't get to pitch if I didn't come to the ballpark like that so I went in with a chip on my shoulder. It felt good that the team trusted me to come out here and get that first game win. We had a discussion on who was going to get the ball for Game 1. I told them I wanted it, so I got it."
Coontz went on the mound just like he would for a Drummond High School regular season game.
"I always get pumped up for a baseball game,'' he said,. "I love it. I'm never nervous when I pitch.''
He stayed calm when tested.
In the second, Phenom had runners on second and third after a walk to Logan Williams, Cade Pratt being hit by a pitch and a ground out by Luke Leaumont. Coontz got Jacob Gordon to ground out to third baseman Coby Grimsely to end the inning.
Phenom scored its only run in the third when C.J. Pitiglia was hit by a pitch and Mason Andrews doubled to left center. Andrews was stranded on second after Coontz struck out Cade McGlade and got Reid Lapekas to pop up.
"I trusted my defense behind me,'' Coontz said. "I knew I could put it in play, they would make the plays.''
Coontz benefitted from having his trusted catcher Wyatt Gray behind the plate.
"He makes it easy,'' Coontz said. "I would rather throw to Wyatt than any other catcher.''
Coontz's lone disappointment was being replaced by Grimsley in the sixth. That proved to be a wise move since Grimsley struck out five.
"It was a little disappointing, but it was the third time they were going through the lineup,'' Coontz said. "I knew it was the best for the team. The guy was throwing in the 90s.''
Coontz and the Grays are playoff tested having led the Bulldogs to the Class B state finals last spring and the fall state semifinals.
"You try to treat it the same,'' said Coontz in comparing summer to the high school playoffs. "I personally like the high school playoffs, but this is fun. I'm comfortable playing here (at David Allen) and I'm lot more comfortable with Wyatt behind the plate and Seth at short.''
Wyatt Gray gave the Drillers a 1-0 lead when he drove in Shattuck's Gaitlin Goodson with a sac fly in the first. Goodson reached on an error and stole second and third. Gray was robbed of a hit by third baseman Williams in the third and flew out to center in the fifth.
"I just did my job,'' he said. "There were runners on base and it's my job as the clean-up hitter to bring them in. I was very satisfied with that. I always try to play with intensity and do the best that I can.''
Seth Gray was 0-for-2 at the plate with a walk in the second. He flew out to center in the first and struck out in the fifth. He caught two pop flies but did not have a grounder hit to him.
"All you can do on a day like today is to talk it up,'' Seth Gray said. "We knew these guys were a good team and we wanted to prove that we could beat them again. The first round is always the most important round to get through.''
The Drillers scored twice in the second on a two-RBI double by Goodson, scoring Bryce Crawford and Ty Humphers, who had walked.
"Getting the lead helped,'' Coontz said.
The Drillers will face newly crowned Connie Mack state champion MVP Seng at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at David Allen. MVP Seng beat the Frozen Ropes of Texas 6-5.
"We're very pumped up for this tournament,'' Wyatt Gray said. "This is our last chance to get to the World Series and we're going to do it. I wasn't nervous today. There's nothing better than to play at this ballpark. We haven't played MVP Seng before but everything I've heard they are very solid and sound.''
The Drillers had beaten the Frozen Ropes in extra innings earlier this season.
"Every game in this tournament is going to be a dogfight,'' Seth Gray said. "If we do what we're capable of doing, we'll get through it.''