By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Two weeks ago, the Stillwater High School baseball team gave up seven runs in the first inning to Enid during an 11-6 loss at the Gladys Winters Tournament in Enid.
But since that dreadful inning, the Pioneers (12-7, 6-1 in districts) have lost just once in the last five games, climbing to No. 9 in the latest polls.
“We’re feeling better about our team,” Stillwater coach Tony Holt said. “We’ve kind been on a roller coaster that’s been up and down, but we’ve been playing well. We came out and got a big win over Putnam City North in the last game at Enid. Then we came out against Bixby and got a couple big wins and district wins. We’ve played pretty well all three of those games. It’s nice to see that we’re putting some things together instead of being on that roller coaster.”
Riding high on the wave of momentum, the Pioneers hope to continue that upward trend as they host the Stillwater Invitational beginning at noon Thursday in Couch Park.
The first team they face? None other than the Enid team where Stillwater’s climb began.
“I don’t know if we’re looking for revenge, but we certainly have a bad taste in our mouth because of the way we played over there,” Holt said. “I thought Enid played real well, but we didn’t feel like we played the way we were capable of. More than revenge, we’re just wanting to play better and give ourselves a shot at winning.
“We got down 7-0 over there early and had to battle the whole game. We really didn’t give ourselves a chance at that time. Enid is kind of a rival for us, so it would be nice to beat them. But we try to beat everybody and we expect to beat everybody, but we have to play well to beat everybody.”
Keeping the title in Stillwater won’t be easy. Teams like Union — a team Stillwater upset at Enid — will be gunning for the Pioneers, while 11th-ranked Midwest City and 13th-ranked Mustang also have their eyes on the championship.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Holt said. “We have a lot of good teams coming into our tournament, but we like to play good competition and our tournament has always been very competitive here for years and years. It’s going to be that way again this year.”
Other teams may be vying for this year’s championship, but Stillwater has made one thing clear — the Pioneers aren’t going to give it up without a fight.
“When you host a tournament, you always kind of expect to win it yourself,” Holt said. “We won it around here a few times and there have been some other teams that have come in and won it. We know it’s going to be tough, but you feel kind of selfish when you’re at your own ballpark. You like your kids to have the attitude that nobody’s going to beat you here.”
But while keeping the trophy in Stillwater is a major goal for the Pioneers, Holt said the tournament’s games don’t mean nearly as much as Stillwater’s seven remaining district games.
“We want to improve and we’re trying to get better every day,” Holt said. “These four games over the next three days are very important for us to work on some things, get a lot of kids some at-bats, get some kids on the mound that haven’t been up, and try to improve ourselves.
“We’ve got some big time district games coming up and right now we’re one game out of first place, behind Owasso. We still have to play them, Broken Arrow, Bartlesville and one game left with Bishop Kelley. We’ve seven district games left and right now we’re right in the thick of it. We’re playing for a district championship ... All these games will help us get better and hopefully move us closer to that goal.”