Jones’ Maples bounces back to lead way

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS -

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.

Ryan Aber raber@ oklahoman.com

BASE­BALL

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