Clay Hatfield was feeling in the zone Saturday night; nothing could bring him down.
Some early inning soreness had subsided and he was on a roll and for the first time this weekend, his Stillwater High teammates were, too.
Hatfield allowed one run in a complete-game win with the Pioneers beating the Oklahoma Lookouts 9-1 in a five-inning run-rule on the third day of the 27th Annual Brad Holt Memorial Tournament at Couch Park.
The soon-to-be senior gave up just four hits and when coach Zach Boydston came up to him wondering if he needed a break, Hatfield said he had all the rest he needed.
“Going into the game, the arm was really sore but once I got on the mound, it loosened back up and felt pretty good throughout the game,” Hatfield said. “Coach asked me at one point if I was doing OK and I said, ‘Oh yeah, keep me in the game, for sure.’”
The Pioneers had been run-ruled the first two nights of the tournament and on the penultimate night, with placing games Sunday, Hatfield said he and his Stillwater teammates wanted to end the weekend on a good note.
That started with the victory Saturday over the Lookouts, a summer squad compiled of Tulsa-area players coached by former Oklahoma State standout Steve Yoder.
The Lookouts struck first on an RBI single from Westin Nelson to plate Marcus Mirabel. With two more on base, it looked as if Stillwater was about to go into an even deeper hole, however some smart plays from the Pioneer defense allowed Hatfield and Co. to escape.
The Lookout runner at third got caught in a pickle and was chased down and tagged, with the runner at second also finding himself in a sticky situation on the basepath giving Stillwater rare back-to-back tagouts on the same play.
Boydston said he was impressed with the players’ growth after the past two nights and is seeing their potential starting to shine.
“We played a complete game,” Boydston said. “We did a whole lot better at the plate. We played excellent defense and our pitching was outstanding. The way we responded from the past few days is as much as I could ask for.”
The Stillwater offense got started in the bottom of the second with a leadoff from shortstop Henry Hutchins. After consecutive outs, it didn’t look as if Hutchins was going to get brought home but Reece Wilson had an answer for that as he plated Hutchins to tie the game up.
Hutchins, who is going to be a sophomore, said the Stillwater offense was performing a lot better than it has the past few outings.
“I think that we kind of hit the ball more out front and weren’t getting blown by today,” Hutchins said. “Had a lot more base hits and generated a lot more runs offensively.”
Stillwater put across two more in the third before putting up a 5-spot in the third. A big part of the explosive inning came from a 2-RBI triple that catcher Reece Wilson hit off the right-field wall.
“The biggest thing for us is that we had an approach,” Boydston said. “Everyone had their own approach and they executed. As the game went on, we made adjustments and near the end we were successful with it.”
The Pioneers put the finishing touches on the win with a sacrifice fly from Hutchins when the bases were loaded to bring across Aiden Luckett for the clinching run.
“It’s real nice, especially after going 0 for 2 to start out the tournament and to get things flipped around going into tomorrow and nice to see things finally go our way,” Hutchins said. “To go 1-0 and run-rule them today was really nice.”
To have a great performance from Hatifled on the mound was a big deal to Boydston going into Sunday as it preserved the Pioneers’ bullpen.
“That was awesome,” Boydston said. “It helps out our bullpen big time heading into the doubleheader (Sunday). I knew he had it in him. He got that one run in the second inning put up against him and he responded. He did a great job of first-pitch strikes tonight and stayed in the game and ultimately it ended up well for us.”
Hatfield is enjoying the summer with the mix of junior varsity guys moving up and some vets like himself who have seen what it takes to make the state tournament in the spring.
“We have been struggling a lot lately, so to be able to come out on top and focus up was really good,” Hatfield said. “… It is a big deal. That is why we do this summer thing is to be able to find our part in this team and our role in this season for hopefully a state championship run this year.”
There is still plenty of team-building left, starting with a game against the Stillwater junior varsity squad at noon Sunday at Guthrie’s Squires Field.
The Pioneer varsity finished third in its pool and the JV were fourth on the other side of the bracket. The winner moves on to a 5 p.m. game also in Guthrie.
“This is a huge boost for us,” Boydston said. “The way we responded sets the table for tomorrow. I think we had a rough first two games and to have this third game go well for us, we have a lot of confidence heading into tomorrow and hopefully we can keep it going.”
On the other side, the Dallas Tigers of OK and Oklahoma Process play at noon with Red Dirt 16U and Red Dirt 17U playing at 2:30 p.m. at Couch Park. The winners head to the 5 p.m. championship with a team hopefully being crowned for the first time since the summer of 2016.