By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When the rains came early Saturday morning, the Stillwater High School baseball team traded their bats and gloves for rakes and brooms, their tournament essentially over with the rainout of the 11 a.m. game against Tulsa Union.
But while the Pioneers’ tournament may have ended prematurely, the hard work of the Pioneers’ baseball team, coaches and parents allowed for the final three games of the Stillwater Invitational to go off without a hitch.
“Our kids and our parents do a great job,” Stillwater coach Tony Holt said. “They understand hard work. They did the orange chair backs at OSU every year and they never shy away from the hard work. They wanted to play, but they take pride in the field and they take pride in the tournament. It’s never fun to get up early, but they knew what this tournament meant to the other teams.”
By the time the first pitch was thrown at 2:30 p.m., only a few spots around the outline of the dirt around home plate was damp.
“You kind of do (get a sense of pride) for what we’ve accomplished,” Stillwater sophomore Ryan Wieligman said. “We worked really hard this morning and worked for a really long time. I kind of get a lot of sense of pride because they get to play on a field that’s probably in the best shape it’s been in all year. After the rain, the dirt just feels amazing.”
Holt said that the Pioneers could have played the game later in the day, but decided to call the game because Union had prom Saturday night.
“We finally pulled the tarp off a little after 9 a.m.,” Holt said. “At that time, Union was already on the road. It was one of those deals, if we could have waited and pushed our game back we might have been able to get our game in. But we didn’t have that luxury because of their prom. They were already on the road, so I had to let them know something and there was no way we could have it ready (by 11 a.m.). We could have played on it at 1 p.m. if we had to, but when you have a bunch of people to talk to, you have to make a decision and go with it.”
“It’s kind of frustrating to know that you can’t play, but you just can’t really look back on that,” Wieligman said. “We’ll get more chances to see them. If it’s not in the postseason, we’ll get to see them in later years or games to come. It’s just a game you can’t think about. You just have to move on from it and continue to get ready for our next game Monday.”
It may have been frustrating for Wieligman and the Pioneers to have their second game of the tournament rained out as they finished 0-2 in their own tournament, but some good did come out of it.
“I just enjoy being out here,” Wieligman said. “It was just fun to be out here and be with the team. It was a fun task to get to do. You could say that it did help us bond a little too.”
Also helping the bonding process were enough McMuffins to satisfy the hard working and hungry group.
“I know they don’t enjoy it a whole lot, but they came out so I went and got them some McDonald’s,” Holt said. “I bought McDonald’s out of biscuits. It was a little bit of a reward for getting up so early. They worked hard — the kids and the assistant coaches, (Paul) Grant and (Chance) Jeffery, really did a great job.”
Stillwater may not have been able to finish the Stillwater Invitational like it had hoped, but the Pioneers won’t be off for long. Stillwater will travel to Deer Creek Monday for a 5 p.m. game.
“We just have to build off the last inning,” Holt said. “Forget everything else that happened. We did a great job of coming back the last inning. We had a lot of kids that had some good at-bats and we were able to score some runs and give ourselves a chance to win the ballgame. Our kids battled and it just didn’t work out.
“These last two losses have been hard. They’ve been close, hard fought games that could have gone either way and we came up on the short end. But our season is not over. We’re still playing for a district championship and still playing for a state championship. … Right now, we’re looking forward to going to Deer Creek, playing a good team and getting better.”