By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The first game of the Class 6A regional baseball tournament may have taken a little bit longer than expected — clocking in at just a shade under three hours — but the Stillwater offense left little doubt as to which team would advance to the semifinals against Enid Friday at Couch Park.
The Pioneers (17-12) belted seven doubles — two each by Will Pendleton and Michael Higgins — en route to 16 hits as Stillwater opened the tournament with a 19-5 win over the Plainsmen.
“Before the game, we were really hyped up and we knew what we had to do,” Pendleton said. “We had been swinging the sticks real well lately and we brought that into this game.”
Stillwater’s offense struck early and often against the Plainsmen. Aided by three walks and a two-run single by Tyler Burnett, the Pioneers scored three runs in the first inning before blowing the game open with a six-run second inning, thanks in large part to back-to-back two-run doubles by Jon Littell and Taylor Throne.
“Hitting is contagious,” Stillwater coach Tony Holt said. “Anybody will tell you that. We had some guys that had been struggling a little bit that stroked the ball really well today.
“Throne hit one down the line and I think Jon may have smoked one (to left), but a lot of (the doubles) were hit the other way. When the wind is blowing in like it was, you want to try to make a living hitting the ball the other way.”
After being the benefactor of so many walks early in the game, walks came back to haunt the Pioneers in the bottom of the second as Stillwater starter Sam Kraybill walked five straight batters to force in Enid’s first two runs. Back-to-back singles by Cole Floyd and Christian Voitik tallied three more runs for the Plainsmen and gave Enid some life as they trimmed Stillwater’s lead to 10-5.
“I think a lot of it was that the long innings kind of effected Sam a little bit,” Holt said. “Pitchers tend to get into trouble when you have two long innings like that. Their arm starts to ice up and they tend to lose their focus. But Kevin Todhunter got a big out for us and then Will Fowler came on and did a great job in a tough situation.”
Enid may have closed the gap, but even on a chilly day it didn’t take long for Stillwater’s bats to heat up again as the Pioneers answered in the top of the third. Carson Teel led off the inning with a double before Throne drove him in with a RBI single for his third RBI of the game.
The Pioneers then broke the game open in the sixth, tallying four runs on three more doubles – including two runs on Harrison Cornforth’s double to the gap in right. Pendleton also roped his second RBI double to the gap in right center, as Stillwater extended its lead to 14-5 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
“When they made that comeback, it really just made me want to go into overdrive,” Pendleton said. “I started getting more hyped up because I knew we could beat them. ... I was just seeing the ball really well, kept my hands back and just exploded.”
Stillwater then finished off Enid with a five-run seventh as Jake Nicholas and Tanner Fore combined to give up four walks and two singles, along with the Plainsmen’s 106th error of the season.
“When you hit like that, there’s not a whole lot to be unhappy about,” Holt said. “I just wish we could save some of those hits and runs to bottle them up and use them again, but the bottom line is that when you go back out there again it’s going to be 0-0 and you have to do it all over again.”