Jones’ Maples bounces back to lead way
Coming off the field at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark following No. 3-ranked Jones’ 9-7 win over No. 1 Oktaha to take the Class 3A state title Saturday, Jarren Maples wasn’t about to let go of the state championship banner.
Maples wrapped himself in the white and read banner like a blanket, savoring every last moment.
It’s been a long last year for Maples, ever since his error in the opening round of the state tournament a year ago helped Verdigris push across its only run to eliminate the Longhorns.
“It felt like forever,” Maples said of the wait from last year’s state tournament to this year’s.
It’s been an even longer last two years for Maples, since a four-wheeler accident mangled his left wrist and the resulting infection kept him in the hospital for nearly two months.
He had to have a bone graft and 17 other surgeries.
“When I had surgery every other day for almost a month, I didn’t think I was going to come back (to baseball),” Maples said.
He still doesn’t have full range of motion in the wrist and still has the scars that remind him constantly of the accident.
After last season’s loss, Longhorns coach Cody Tutwiler had to console Maples.
“Look young man, you’re going to have an opportunity again,” Tutwiler said. “It’s going to come back to you.”
Maples was 2 for 3 with an RBI in Saturday’s win, hitting second. He did have an error, but his positive contributions far overshadowed that.
“For him to come out and give us the performance he had today speaks volumes to the kid’s character, the kid’s work ethic,” Tutwiler said. “I’m absolutely thrilled for that young man.”
The championship was the first for the Longhorns.
It was never really comfortable for Jones (24-4), despite taking the lead for good in the third inning.
That discomfort lasted until the end, when with the go-ahead run on first, Dylan Weiher got Brayden Rodden to ground out to third to end it and send the Longhorns into a frenzy.