By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
From the moment Carson Teel first toed the rubber against Bartlesville Friday, the Stillwater High School junior pitcher knew what was at stake — a chance to host a regional.
But where most athletes might crumble under the pressure of a must-win game, Teel rose above it by delivering a one-hit shutout as Stillwater beat Bartlesville 3-0 to pull the Pioneers (16-10, 8-2 in district) one win away from hosting the regional tournament.
“I feel bad saying that we’ve become used to it, but the good ones are that way,” Stillwater coach Tony Holt said. “All through the years, all the good pitchers we’ve had here, you expect every time they go out they’ll give you a great effort and he’s become that guy.”
Teel (7-2) didn’t need a lot of help, recording the first eight outs by himself — including an unassisted double play on a botched Bartlesville bunt in the third inning. But when he did get in a jam, his teammates were there to pick him up.
“It was a great feeling,” Teel said. “I went out there and trusted my teammates on defense. I feel like anything that’s hit at them they’ll catch and make a play. Tonight it was the best of both worlds. I got a few strikeouts and they made plays behind me.”
No doubt, the Pioneer defense made its fair share of plays but Teel certainly made it easy on them — striking out the side in the first and second innings en route to eight strikeouts total.
“It was a crazy feeling,” Teel said. “I don’t think I have the stuff that's necessary to strike out a lot of people but I recorded them and got lucky with a few pitches.”
While Teel was nothing short of spectacular, Bartlesville starter Austin Stone didn’t back down — allowing just one base runner and no hits through the first four innings.
But that’s when the words of Stillwater assistant coach Chance Jeffery started to sink in.
“I thought the Stone kid threw tremendous for them,” Holt said. “He kept us off balance, he’s got a good curveball and slider. He spotted the fastball up and never threw us a really good fastball to hit. ... He made it tough on us.
“Coach Jeffery visited with our guys and told them that the only fastballs (Stone) was throwing was pretty much out of the zone. We just had to be more patient with the fastball. We got a few later that we could square up and we were trying to pull the curveball too much. So we started trying to hitting the curveball the other way.”
Following a walk to Taylor Throne to lead off the fifth, Will Pendleton then recorded Stillwater’s first hit on a bouncer back through the box. Tyler Burnett’s fielder’s choice then loaded the bases for Harrison Cornforth, whose sacrifice fly to center was just deep enough to score pinch runner Will Fowler for the game’s first run.
“We felt like we had it at that point,” Teel said. “Everybody kept saying, ‘You’ve got this game, now go finish it.’ I just went out there and believed them."
Tell found himself in a little bit of trouble in the bottom of the sixth as a pair of walks put runners on the corners with two outs. But the crafty lefty managed to get out of the jam with a flyball to left to end the inning.
“It was huge,” Teel said. “You have a guy on third and they had a little something going. So for (Ryan Hoecker) to make a play like that to end the inning and give us momentum coming back in was huge.”
Seeing their lead nearly disappear, the Stillwater offense finally started to give Teel some support in the bottom of the sixth. Nate Jolliff led off the inning with a single before stealing second and advancing to third on a balk. Jon Littell then ripped a double down the left, scoring Jolliff easily.
That wasn’t all the damage Stillwater did in the sixth. With runners on first and second, Cornforth tallied his second RBI with a single to left that scored Will Pendleton to give Stillwater a 3-0 lead after six innings.
“We’ve been rotating some kids at second base and it came down to the fact that T.J. (Black) and Harrison both were hitting the baseball,” Holt said. “I felt bad that we were rotating with guys that were both producing with the bat. ... Harrison has been good all year and the fact that he hasn’t played much is nobody’s fault but mine. When he’s got his chances, he’s made the most of it and he did that tonight.”
Teel then sealed the deal by pitching a perfect seventh — finishing as strong as he started by inducing three easy flyballs to move Stillwater one win away from hosting regionals.
The Pioneers will have three chances to lock up that regional berth beginning Friday with a trip to Bartlesville. They will also play at Bishop Kelley and Broken Arrow Saturday with a possible game against Owasso Monday at Couch Park if necessary.
“I’m excited but coaches never relax until we get that next win,” Holt said. “I’m not ready to relax. We have to go play (Bartlesville) Friday. They’re a really good team and they play really well at home. So we’ve got our hands full the next few days. We don’t take anything for granted walking in there, so we’re not going to relax until we get that next win and we know we’ve got it sewn up.”