Stillwater News Press

High School Sports

May 9, 2014

Pioneers return to state tournament with rout of Booker T. Washington

STILLWATER, Okla. — Michael Higgins continued his hot hitting to help the Stillwater High baseball team reach its second Class 6A state tournament in three years with a 15-2 run-rule victory over Booker T. Washington in the regional title game Thursday.

Higgins, who hit two grand slams in two games Wednesday, hit his fifth home run in as many games with a two-run shot in a nine-run, third inning for the Pioneers.

“I’ve been working my tail off with the coaches and I’ve got to give it to them, they’ve been helping me so much throughout practice,” hey’ve been helping me so much throughout practice,” said Higgins, who went 2 for 3 from the plate in the title game and 6 for 12 for the tournament with 13 RBIs. “We’ve been out here until 1 a.m. still working on my swing before. So it’s awesome to see that paying off.”

The Stillwater senior catcher has been a blessing for his battery mates, especially Thursday’s pitcher Nick Hollman who struggled on the mound in the first inning. But with Higgins and the rest of the SHS offense putting up big numbers, Hollman — who is usually Stillwater’s closer and starting in his second game of the year — managed to coast from the bump to pick up the win.

“It definitely helped him, but he had it either way,” Higgins said. “Once he was getting it in there after the first, they weren’t touching him. He’s one of the best pitchers in the state and he doesn’t get credit for it.”

Stillwater started off the game with three runs in the top of the first, to give the Pioneers 11 runs scored in the first inning in their three regional games.

The Booker T. Washington defense helped the Pioneers get some early runs with an error on the first batter — Carson Teel.

After T.J. Black then reached on a single, SHS senior Jon Littell connected for a two-run single to score the first runs of the game. Brooks Zimmerman followed with an RBI single to plate Littell for the third run of the inning.

The Pioneers put up another run in the second before the big rally in the third, which was started by a single and a double by Littell and Zimmerman, respectively, before Higgins’ fifth home run. The inning was kept alive by two more BTW errors.

In all, the Stillwater offense averaged 17 runs per game in the regional tournament — with the closest game being the 11-6 opener to fourth seed Bartlesville.

And the large group of seniors — 17 in total — will get to leave Stillwater as state qualifiers, with the hopes of more.

“I’ve been with them for one year, but these are my guys,” SHS coach Jimmy Harris said of the seniors. “I love them. They are so fun to be around. They’re winners, they’re hard workers. And letting them celebrate right now is fun. But next Saturday night (with the state championship game) it could be really fun, and I’m hoping that’s what’s going to happen for us.”

The Pioneers should find out their opponent Monday for next week’s state tournament — which will be held L. Dale Mitchell Park on the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman. The bracket for the event, which begins Thursday, is scheduled to be released on the OSSAA website Monday afternoon once all regional tournaments are completed.

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