By Ryan Costello
CNHI News Service
ENID, Okla. —
Will Fowler, the pitcher on the wrong side of a seven-run first inning and an 11-6 Enid upset a day short of a calendar year before Thursday’s rivalry renewal with the Plainsmen, was hoping Stillwater would send a message in its return to David Allen Memorial Ballpark.
Mission accomplished. And that might be understating it.
Stillwater started with a seven-run first-inning barrage, finished with a seven-run seventh and added a steal on three attempts for good measure in a 17-3 rout of the Plainsmen, the Pioneers’ ninth straight win, and fifth in a row by at least six runs.
“These last couple of games, we’ve just come in and run-ruled people, and that’s kind of how we’ve been playing,” said Fowler, who had three RBI and three runs. “Not trying to sound cocky or anything, that’s just the attitude in the locker room right now. For me, yeah, I wanted us to run-rule them.”
The Pioneers didn’t, but only because their 14-run lead didn’t come until the top of the seventh, bringing with it some figurative chin music to Stillwater’s longtime rival.
Already up 16-3 in the seventh, catcher Michael Higgins stole third base in front of Enid’s home-side dugout. The steal, coming on the Pioneers’ third attempt of the inning, elicited protests from some Plainsmen coaches and players.
Higgins scored on a Ryan Hoecker single in Stillwater’s next at-bat to reach the final margin. Carson Teel dropped a bunt on the following pitch, but appeared to have done so to give himself up and end the inning.
First-year Stillwater coach Jimmy Harris said afterward he had explained the steals to Enid coach Bill Mayberry, and that they were done to reinforce the Pioneers’ new baserunning system.
“We have a baserunning system, and we’re working on it,” Harris said. “These kids have never done this before, and I told coach Mayberry that there was no message, there was no intent. We were trying to do what we do. There’s a certain rule we go by, and if we can, we take the bag. They were allowing that to happen, so we were taking the bag. We meant no disrespect by it.”
“I try to not figure why other people are doing things, I try to figure out what we are (doing),” Mayberry said. “Our players, our coaches, thought (Stillwater was trying to send a message), but if you’ve got things to work on, you’ve got to work on them. I’ve been on both ends of that. We don’t run it up like that, but some teams do, but I don’t hold it against them.”
Jon Littell (2-0) earned the win for Stillwater, but worked only an inning to get it as the Pioneers treated Thursday as a chance to give work to several pitchers. Colton Bunny, Riley Williams, Tyler Burnett, Gunner Black, Teel and Higgins also threw in the game.
Despite the start, Littell was Stillwater’s least effective pitcher, surrendering two runs on two hits, two walks and two strikeouts in his lone frame. The Oklahoma State commit didn’t need to be perfect though, starting his day with a seven-run buffer after an error-filled top of the first.
Teel singled on a hard-hit liner to right to open the game, followed by a T.J. Black walk. Littell flied out to right, then the mistakes started. Brooks Zimmerman reached on an error by Enid third baseman Hunter Childs, Fowler reached on another error — a bobble by first baseman Braden Rogers that also scored Teel for the game’s first run — and Harrison Cornforth reached on a Childs throwing error, Enid’s third straight that scored Black in the process.
Enid starter Bates Enmeier (2-1) struck out Burnett on a curveball and seemed poised to escape the error-aided rally down only two, but Higgins followed with a two-out, bases-clearing triple to deep center and Hoecker and Teel added RBI doubles to bump the lead to 7-0 and put Enid all but out of reach by the bottom of the first.
“We’ve turned 12 double plays in 11 games, and we get those (ground) balls and we can’t turn them,” Mayberry said. “It was unfortunate for Bates, because they didn’t have an earned run (against him).”
Enid (5-7) pulled back to within 7-2 on RBI doubles by Enmeier and sophomore Bobby Russell in the bottom of the first, and as close as 7-3 on a Childs RBI in the fourth, but Stillwater responded with 10 unanswered including its seven-run knockout blow in the seventh.
The blowout was an ideal prologue for the Pioneers as they enter a stretch of four games against district 6A-4 opponents.
Stillwater, 10-1 overall and already 2-0 in district play after a home-and-home sweep of Putnam City earlier this week, visits Muskogee for a doubleheader on Saturday before a home-and-home with Sand Springs starting April 4 in Stillwater.