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May 27, 2014

Orange Prattle: Baseball's back in Stillwater

STILLWATER, Okla. — The final chapter of the 2014 baseball season in the Stillwater area has yet to be written with the Oklahoma State squad beginning its postseason march later this week, but the conclusion will just add to an already storied spring for the region.

The opening chapter was written May 2 with one of the small area schools.

Casey Sadler became the first Major Leaguer from Ripley High School — the valedictorian of his graduating class of 30 in 2008 — after being the second Ripley Warrior player drafted in the MLB. Sadler — whose younger brother Cory was a senior for Ripley’s state-qualifying team — was drafted 10 years after Matt Cooper was a third-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox, but failed to get out of high Class A ball.

Sadler — who was named to the Double-A Eastern League All-Star team last summer with the Altoona (Pa.) Curve — made his major league debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates May 2 in a relief appearance against the Toronto Blue Jays. He pitched two innings, gave up a hit and a walk while striking out two.

That very same day, more than 1,000 miles away from PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Sadler’s alma mater clinched its first state tournament bid in six years — when Sadler was a senior for Ripley.

Two weeks later, another pair of baseball stars aligned, this time surrounding the Stillwater High program.

For the first time in 57 years, the Pioneer baseball team was the champion of Oklahoma baseball. With a group of 17 seniors — including a gutty performance from Nick Hollman on the mound — Stillwater rolled to a 7-0 victory on May 17 for the Class 6A state title.

About three hours north, at the exact same moment that the Pioneers celebrated its title, former Stillwater Pioneer Jerame Littell blasted his college team into the NJCAA Division II World Series.

Littell capped his first season at Northern Oklahoma College-Enid with a walk-off home run in the 12th inning of the Plains District championship to send the program to its first NJCAA Division II World Series appearance since 2002. In Monday’s elimination game, Littell hit his 15th home run for the Jets in a 10-7 loss at David Allen Memorial Ballpark in Enid.

And now, as the days count down to the start of the Stillwater Regional in the NCAA Division I College World Series, eyes fall upon Stillwater High and Oklahoma State graduate Josh Holliday and what he, his coaching staff and his players have been able to accomplish in just his second year.

The Big 12 Conference regular season champs — the first such time for OSU — with a Stillwater High grad at the helm, and a Pioneer graduate on the team in Corey Hassel, will host Oklahoma State’s first regional since 2008.

If Oklahoma State can make its way through Binghamton, Cal State Fullerton and Nebraska, a Super Regional date with top seeded Oregon State would likely be on the line. And as if enough dots have not been connected this season, Oregon State was the last stop for Cowboy coaching staff’s Marty Lees — who traded black and orange OSU allegiances after 11 years in Corvallis, Oregon, to become Holliday’s assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.

While on the subject of “what could be,” a 15-year drought and program’s 20th trip to the College World Series could cap this memorable of baseball seasons for the Stillwater area.

And no matter what the final words read on on this best-selling season, it’s clear to see that baseball is back where it belongs in the heart of Oklahoma.

Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at jelmquist@stwnewspress.com.

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