By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Stillwater High School baseball coach Tony Holt isn’t big on speeches. But even he knew the importance of Friday’s district game against Bixby.
“I told them before the game, I said, ‘I never ask you to win, but in this case, this is as close as I’m going to come to ever asking you to win,’” Holt said. “These district games are so important to where we’re going to go in the playoff. We’re just at the point where we have to win every district game and that’s the way we have to approach it.”
That message was received loud and clear as the Pioneers pounded out 11 runs on 13 hits and three Bixby errors — including 10 runs in the final three innings — to beat the Spartans 11-1 in a run-rule shortened game Friday at Couch Park.
“We started off a little slow offensively,” Holt said. “They made a few errors to help us, but you still have to make them pay for those. I thought we did a good job of making them pay for those errors and coming up with some big hits.”
Taylor Throne led the way for Stillwater’s offense, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs, while Michael Higgins’ bases-loaded double in the fifth helped Stillwater (11-7, 5-1 in district) score six runs and provided plenty of support for Pioneer starter Carson Teel. Teel (4-2) went all six innings, allowing one run on two hits, while striking out four.
“It feels good,” Higgins said. “Carson pitched a really good game, only giving up one run. We were down in the first couple of innings, but the last few innings we just started relaxing and started to do what we knew we could do.”
Stillwater struck first as Teel led off the game with a single. Jon Littell then followed with an infield single before Throne drove in courtesy runner Ryan Wieligman with a dribbler just out of the Bixby shortstop’s reach for the game’s first run.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the third when Blake Kirk singled and Dylan Haynes reached on an error. Following a passed ball, Chase Barber’s sacrifice fly tied the game at 1.
That’s when the floodgates opened.
After scoring two runs in the bottom of the fourth — aided by hits by Kelby Wickline and Gage Hines — the Pioneers sent 11 batters to the plate, scoring six runs on six hits.
Nate Jolliff and Littell led of the fifth with singles before taking second on an error by the pitcher. Throne then got the scoring started with a bouncer over the drawn in infield to plate both Jolliff and Littell, chasing Bixby starter Parker McDonald.
“(McDonald) did a good job and I thought the kid that came in wasn’t too bad either,” Holt said. “They had a couple tough errors and we made them pay. That was good to get to their bullpen, especially when you have to play them (Saturday). You’d like to win big and have them use five or six guys. I think they used two or three, so they’re probably in pretty good shape but it was good to see our offense put up a big number like that.”
After an error and a hit batter loaded the bases with two outs, Higgins roped a shot to left, clearing the bases and extending Stillwater’s lead to 8-1. Higgins later scored on Harrison Cornforth’s RBI single as Stillwater took a 9-1 lead after five.
“I knew that there was two outs and I just had to get a good hit and get on base so I could clear a few guys off the bases,” Higgins said. “I was just trying to open up the inning and kind of get our momentum going because we were down. I got that hit and it just got everybody going and it was that much easier to run-rule them.”
Already up by eight, a single by Littell and another error put runners on second and third with no outs in the bottom of the sixth. One batter later Will Pendleton ended the game with a two-run double to the gap in right center field, scoring Littell and Throne.
“This was a big win for us,” Higgins said. “It has our momentum going in the right direction. We have Sam (Kraybill) on the mound, so hopefully we’ll continue to hit the ball well and get another win.”
But while Holt said he was happy to see his offense produce so many runs against Bixby Friday, he knows Saturday could be a completely different story.
“It’s all 0-0 tomorrow when we walk into Bixby,” Holt said. “We have to start all over again. That’s the great thing about this game, you have to prove yourself again in a matter of hours. We just have to approach every game in the same way. We want to be aggressive at the plate, go make plays and put ourselves in a position to be successful.”