Stillwater News Press

Sports

June 15, 2014

Harris delivers Stillwater a state title in first year at the helm

STILLWATER, Okla. — When Jimmy Harris first arrived at Stillwater, he sought out two players to get an idea of what to expect in his first year as head coach of the Stillwater High baseball program — Carson Teel and Jon Littell.

The former three-time Arkansas state champion coach knew if he was to get the Pioneer players to follow him, he would first need the team’s leaders.

“The first thing I was trained to do years ago is you’ve got to get your leaders on board,” said Harris, The Stillwater News Press All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year. “So the first two phone calls I made when I took the job here is I called Jon, and I called Carson, because those are the two guys.”

When the season started in late February, the tone had been set.

While Teel was still playing for the Pioneer basketball program, Harris said Littell was the key the first month of practice until the second leader – Teel, who was finishing his senior season with the Pioneer basketball program – joined his teammates on the diamond.

“At that time, with Carson being in basketball, Jon Littell was the guy we had to get on board and it was real easy to do,” Harris said. “Once we got him on board, with Jon hustling and carrying buckets, it was just easy for everyone else to do that. It all started from those guys, and them doing the right thing.”

With the team’s top players on board, everybody else fell in line — not to say there wasn’t some early push-back. For those that were uncertain of the coach that had replaced the departed Tony Holt, Harris made sure that they felt wanted.

“Not every one of those seniors were attitude and effort guys, but they all came around,” Harris said. “When we won a state championship, the way that we bonded, every one of them felt like they played a role in us getting there and us winning it.

“We tried to make everybody feel like they were important. Who doesn’t want to feel important? So we tried our very best to make them all feel important.”

By the time the regular season started, all the parts were moving as one — like a well-oiled machine. The Pioneers ran off a 22-game winning streak after a close 6-5 loss to preseason favorite Broken Arrow in the second game of the year.

At the end of the regular season, Stillwater found itself as district champions for the first time ever and got the chance to host a regional tournament — where the Pioneers laid waste to their opponents by a combined 50-13 in three games.

Stillwater had reached the state tournament for the second time in three years, but unlike the 2012 squad, this year’s team was expected to do more than just make an appearance.

The only test SHS ran into at state came in the semifinals against district foe Jenks. The two teams – which had split the regular season series – needed extra innings, with Stillwater getting a walk-off, bases-loaded walk from Will Fowler.

The Pioneers – led by pitcher Nick Hollman, who moved from the closer role to starter in the last three weeks of the season – shut out Bishop Kelley in the title game to win Stillwater High’s first state championship in 57 years.

“That’s what made it special after these 57 years because they’ve had great players, they’ve had draft picks, they’ve had professional players come through, they’ve had great coaches, but for this team to do what it did is special,” Harris said. “If you break it down, we have one Division I scholarship player, we have two walk-ons, a couple of guys going to junior college. We don’t have some of the guys Owasso or Jenks has, we don’t have all of that, but these guys found a way to win – they are just that good.”

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