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Snider’s arm fuels Owls, 6-2

EDMOND  Before pitching in his first state tournament game ever, Elgin senior Jaken Snider kept telling his skipper, Levi Garrett, how nervous he was. 

As cool as the other side of the pillow, a calm Garrett, who first threw Snider into the fire as a freshman, trusted the Owls' ace and kept reassuring the veteran by saying, "Do what you do, and you'll be fine."

Despite pitching on two turned ankles, Snider's pitching performance was way more than fine as his complete game propelled Elgin (26-13) to a 6-2 victory over Poteau (25-10) in the Class 4A State tournament quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon at Edmond Santa Fe High School.

"His nerves were through the roof," Garrett said. "Once Jaken threw that first pitch, he was good to go. It's just a blessing because he's handled everything that's come his way. I feel like every start he goes out there and gets better. The kid has been unbelievable."

Poteau had no answer for Snider, who tallied eight strikeouts while giving up five hits and two earned runs in seven innings pitched. Snider struck out the side in the second inning, catching one Pirate looking before getting the other two swinging and missing.

"Yea, he's got the big arm, but Jaken has so many weapons to get you out. You don't know what's coming," Garrett said. "He was huge for us and set the tone."

When Snider gave up his first hit of the game in the third, he backed up home plate only to roll his good ankle after turning the other in regionals last weekend. 

Athletic trainers came out to check on him. Garrett fired up the bullpen as a precautionary measure. But Snider refused to give into pain. There was a state tournament game to win.

"I just told myself to keep getting ahead in the count like I have in the past," said Snider, who held it together and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning. "It's been working for me to keep them off balance and not let them know what's coming."

After the game, Snider sat by the fence and had his ankles tended to. Snider was spent after another masterful outing, but he flashed a smile knowing the Owls' dream of a state championship was still alive.

"It's really exciting. I've never played in a high school state tournament before," Snider said. "One in preps but that's nothing  not compared to this anyway."

Snider's only blemish came in the third when Pirate Jagger Dill (2-for-4) delivered an RBI triple to the right-center wall to cut into Elgin's 2-1 lead.

Frustrated with his first at-bat when he left the bases loaded on a shallow fly out, another Elgin senior, Braeden Shackelford, shook off his disgust by delivering a pair of RBIs in his two ensuing at-bats to widen Elgin's lead.

"It's really important when you get runners on base to get them in and not leave them stranded," Shackelford said. "You have to get bunts down, get base hits when you need them, get runners over. That's what's baseball is all about. Getting your teammates in." 

The Owls were retired only four times in 11 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, scoring six runs. In the third inning, Elgin got a pair of Owls in as Shackelford lined an RBI single through the infield and into centerfield. One batter before, Lance Bianchini delivered an RBI single to center, scoring Kendrick Black, who went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, the first of which was ripped to the left field wall to lead off the third. 

"Hit the ball hard on the ground is what we told ourselves after watching them (the Pirates) in pregame," Shackelford said. "They didn't field ground balls or make plays so we all knew if we hit the ball hard on the ground, we could test them and score runs." 

Black hit another leadoff double, this one to right field, in the fifth before Shackelford drove him in on an RBI sacrafice fly to right field, giving Elgin a 5-1 cushion. 

The Lawton Constitution

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