By Harv Antle
OZARK – The Licking Wildcats opened their fall season with three games in two days at Ozark’s U.S. Ballpark. The Wildcats lost to Silo High School from Oklahoma in the first game on Friday, but they bounced back with Saturday wins over Ellington and Crane.
SILO 10, LICKING 6
On Friday, Licking saw two different two-run leads slip away before losing to Silo 10-6. Silo was a state champion of Oklahoma in 2021 and returned seven starters.
“Too many free bases from the mound,” commented Coach Harv Antle following the game. Licking pitchers combined for seven walks and four hit batters.
Starter Alex Buckner took the loss for Licking. Silas Antle and Cole Wallace pitched in relief.
Licking scored its six runs on seven hits but eight strikeouts short-circuited the offense at key moments in the game. Silas Antle was 3-for-4 and Malachi Antle was 2-for-4.
Wallace cranked a two-run triple and Austin Stephens laced an RBI single in the losing cause.
LICKING 5, ELLINGTON 3
Against Ellington, Licking dug itself an early three-run deficit but fought back to win the game 5-3. Keyton Cook got the win in relief by pitching a scoreless sixth and seventh.
Kannon Buckner made his varsity debut on mound when he relieved in the second inning. He spun four shutout innings with three strikeouts and did not walk a batter.
“We were in an early hole and went to Kannon in the second,” explained Antle. “He was instrumental in the win because he completely shut Ellington down and gave us a chance to rally and eventually win it.”
Licking plated a run in both the second and the third inning to tie the game. In the seventh, the Wildcats posted three runs to complete the comeback.
Silas Antle and Rusty Buckner led the offense with two hits apiece. Keyton Rinne scored two runs for the winners.
LICKING 12, CRANE 0
In the finale of the weekend, Licking hit Crane with seven runs in the first inning and was never challenged. Rusty Buckner started and worked three innings on the mound for the win.
Buckner allowed one hit, fanned three and walked two. Austin Stephens was dominant with two innings of relief to finish the game.
Stephens faced six hitters and fanned five. In the fifth, he threw an immaculate inning (nine pitches for nine strikes, for three outs).
Buckner also had a good game at the plate with two hits in three trips, to go with two RBIs. Malachi Antle stroked a bases-loaded triple and Keyton Cook stole two bases and scored twice for the Wildcats.
Licking (2-1) was scheduled to host Hartville on Tuesday this week and Alton on Friday. The Wildcats drew the number one seed in the Frisco League Tournament, which will be played at Stoutland beginning on Sept. 7.