Hilldale back to state since 2021

May 3—The Leach boys went home along with their Hilldale teammates following a rough game two Wednesday in this Class 4A Super Regional that denied them an opportunity to close the series out with a sweep.

Brothers being brothers, you take baseball home with you right to the pillow. and that was the point of focus that helped them regroup for Thursday's decisive Game 3.

There's Cole, Clay and Case, and the former and latter had highlight roles in sending the Hornets to the state tournament for the first time in seven seasons with an 8-3 home win over the Sallisaw Black Diamonds.

"Go home, make sure we are rested and have the energy to come back out here today," said Cole Leach, the junior and University of Arkansas commit as a catcher.

Cole overcame a pitching outing that saw him tagged for six unearned runs into the third inning in the late game Wednesday night. Case would draw the start Thursday and held Sallisaw to two hits over 5 1/3 innings and otherwise sat back and watched his team pound out 10 hits.

Cole was 2-for-3 and as he did in the Game 2 loss, went yard on a solo home run in the second to make it a 3-0 game. He was 2-for-3, one of three Hornets with multihit games. Chandler Wood was 2-for-2 with two RBIs and Brayson Parker was 2-for-4. All three scored twice.

All the previously mentioned other than Parker are former Muskogee and Oktaha coach Darrell Wood's grandkids. Clay is Case's freshman twin.

"I went out there to throw strikes and get some double plays (the Hornets had two) and let the offense do it for me," Case said, moving his record to 4-1 after getting some opportunities around the middle of the year to prove himself.

"When I've been out there, my team's always behind me. We're all usually behind the pitchers. I just like the way they always provide."

Case provided a needed force after the 14-8 loss followed a 13-2 game one win. He battled and in doing so overcame nine walks and two late runs. He struck out three.

"He'd walk a guy and get two quick outs, walk a guy with two more quick outs, and they were competitive walks for the most part, right on the zone. But he hung in there," said Hilldale coach Nathan Frisby, a former Hornet himself who was an assistant under Darren Riddle from 2009-14 and after stints at Muskogee and Tahlequah came back to his alma mater beginning with the COVID-halted 2020 campaign.

Frisby was part of Hilldale's only state championship staff in 2012 and led Muskogee to an improbable state tournament appearance in 2015 despite finshing below .500 that year. His first group of state-bound Hornets will move on with a 26-9 record.

"I feel like a time or two we have had a shot to do this since I got here, but haven't been able to finish at the end of the year," Frisby said.

"With this bunch I thought we had some talent and the right group of guys. I know that sounds cliche or dumb, but all year we've talked about being a group of guys going in the same direction and I think that kind of buy-in and make-up is better than the talent."

The team had three every-day starters coming into March and heading west to the Oklahoma City area next week, they'll all be eligible for a repeat trip in 2025.

"Whatever happens this year happens," said Cole Leach. But I think we'll be a whole lot more comfortable in what we do with everyone coming back."

It'll be the eighth state trip for the program, the last coming in 2017.

Sallisaw ended its season at 23-10, having won the two regular-season meetings between the two teams. Hilldale won District 4A-5. The Black Diamonds were runners-up out of 4A-6.