By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When it has come to the offense, it hass sort of been feast of famine for the Stillwater High School baseball team this season.
After having a week off, the Pioneers struggled to get much going in a 2-1 loss to Bishop Kelley Tuesday.
Now they’re hoping the warmer temperatures predicted this weekend will help heat up the bats as they head to the Gladys Winters Tournament Thursday in Enid.
“We know that we could easily win this tournament or we could easily lose it,” Stillwater junior Carson Teel said. “You just have to go in and play your game and see what happens. I felt good going out there and a lot of the guys said it felt good to get back out on the field but we can’t have any excuses.”
Bringing home any sort of trophy won’t be easy. Teams like Yukon, Tulsa Union and Enid appear to be the favorites — boasting pitching staffs that have been dominant and offenses that can light up the scoreboard.
“You’ve got two top 10 teams with Yukon and Union,” Stillwater coach Tony Holt said. “Enid’s going to be playing in their home park, so it’s a tough tournament. It’s much like our tournament. It’s a high quality tournament ... and we try to win every game, so we’ll go to Enid in the mindset of what we have to do to win. We’ll get some kids at bats and experience, and prepare ourselves for the next district game because that is the key to our season.”
Districts may still be in the back of the Pioneers’ minds as they take the field against Enid at 4 p.m. Thursday in Enid, but Stillwater (8-5) has had some success against Yukon and Putnam City North on the road earlier this season.
During the second game of the season, Stillwater came back from a 5-0 deficit before losing to the Millers 8-6 on Jonathan Denney’s two-run home run. The Pioneers wil get their chance for revenge at 6 p.m. Saturday in Yukon
The Pioneers also jumped out to a 7-2 lead on Putnam City North in the first game of the season before Stillwater’s pitching woes helped the Panthers score six runs in the bottom of the sixth en route to a 14-9 win. Stillwater will end its tournament with a noon game against the Panthers Saturday in Enid.
“It’s big for us,” Teel said. “We want this bad. We want to go win state, which is something that we didn’t do last year but something that we feel like we can do this year. We’re hungry and playing games against teams like Yukon and Union just make us that much better.”
And that’s what this tournament is all about for the Pioneers — getting better. Getting better looks at the plate, getting better at making plays in the field and even getting better pitching out of a staff that has done a decent job of handcuffing opponents so far this season.
“It’s a good, tough tournament,” Holt said. “At this time of the year, before you know it we’ll be in playoff time. If you want to be a state tournament team or you think you’re a state tournament team, you have to play those good people. That’s what we like to do. That’s why our tournament is a good tournament, Enid has a good tournament and we just came out of Arizona playing some good people. We could go play poor teams and build up a good record, but that wouldn’t get us to where we want to be.
“We just look forward to the next time we get a chance to compete and for our kids to get better. We certainly look forward to the next district game, but right now we’re looking forward to the first game of the Enid tournament.”
Even if the Pioneers can’t bring back a trophy from Enid, that doesn’t mean the total tournament will be a failure. Holt said as long as his team is showing signs of improvement, he will be able to feel confident as Stillwater heads into the final stretch of the district season.
“If you’re at the Enid tournament, the Stillwater tournament or in Arizona and you lose one, it ticks you off,” Holt said. “It bothers you and it makes you mad if you’re a competitive person. But the fact that we lost a district game, that hurts even more. That’s what’s going to determine our playoff lives — not how well we do in tournaments.”
“Our goal is to come out of this tournament better than we went in. We just have to continue working and continuing to improve each game. We faced a good pitcher from Bishop Kelley and we’re probably going to face a lot of good pitchers at Enid. But all of that is leading up to the rest of the district season, and that’s what really counts in our minds.”
And Holt is hoping some tough pitching might just be the appetizer Stillwater needs to prepare for the main course — the rest of the district season.