By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
With Stillwater High playing catchup after its opener in the Brad Holt Memorial Tournament was washed out Thursday, the Pioneers pummeled Piedmont Friday with a 17-1 run-rule victory.
The blowout gave Piedmont its first loss in the tournament keeps SHS in the driver's seat for Sunday's championship game as Ponca City is the only other team without a loss. The Pioneers are not scheduled to play their rivals from the north in Saturday's final day of round robin play.
“I was kind of worried about this game. Piedmont has some great players and they were in the state tournament at Class 4A this year and here in this tournament they'd been playing well,” SHS coach Tony Holt said. “It's a game that concerns you. ... It was a very outstanding offensive night for us, but the thing about baseball is they are going to clear that scoreboard and we're going to walk out here (Saturday) and it's going to be back at zeros again.”
Stillwater learned its lesson from Thursday's two innings against Sand Springs in which the Pioneers put up six runs in the first, but allowed the Sandites to respond with a seven-run inning.
“We got up 5-0 tonight and it was brought up in the dugout — don't back down, don't settle, don't relax for a minute because they're not going to back down,” Holt said. “... We know what happened (Thursday) night when it was 6-0, so without trying to be too negative about it towards the kids, we were trying to remind them that it wasn't long ago that somebody came back on them. They stuck with it and we we had four strong innings in a row there offensively.”
This time around when SHS got up big, the Pioneers kept it that way thanks to starting pitcher Colton Bunney. Despite lengthy breaks between innings due to the offensive explosion, Bunney was able to come back out each time and go the full five innings, giving up just three hits and one run — which was unearned.
“I just kept playing catch and had faith in my arm,” said Bunney, who had five strikeouts in the contest. “I was throwing strikes and that's just the big part for me. When I throw strikes I can usually get people out. The runs helped because I knew I could just throw and fastball and not have to worry about it. I could just do my thing.”
Stillwater's offense put up its first crooked number on the scoreboard in the second with five runs off Piedmont starting pitcher Tanner Dixon. SHS chased Dixon from the game in the third inning by putting another four runs on the board, with the Pioneers putting the game out of reach with a six-run fourth inning.
It was the bottom half of the order that got the Stillwater rallies rolling against the Wildcats all night. Fifteen of the 17 runs scored by the Pioneers were from the bottom of the order — Sam Kraybill, Will Fowler, Spencer Parsons, A.J. Ruark and Mason Stuart — touching home.
The bottom two batters, Ruark and Stuart, did more than just score, they also plated a combined eight runners. Ruark finished the night going 3 for 4 with four RBIs and three runs scored, while Stuart went 3 for 3 with a double and four runs plated — included an easy one when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the third.
“It's great to see those two have the night they did. A.J. has hit the ball well all summer and Mason is a good quality athlete as well,” Holt said. “They are both swinging the bat better right now and it's exciting right now.”
While Stillwater got the all-important first win of the tournament, the Pioneers will now face a daunting doubleheader to close pool play Saturday. SHS will face Putnam City North, which has a 2-1 record, at 5 p.m. — which will likely decide Stillwater's place in Sunday's championship game — followed by Enid, with an 0-3 record, at 7:30 p.m.
“We're just going to have to keep pushing and keep fighting hard,” Stuart said. “We've just got to take care of business and get a couple of wins.”