BIXBY — It was a bizarre setting, to be sure.
Stillwater and Norman North were both at the pinnacle of their respective seasons, their top arms rested and ready from a week off and the Class 6A state championship game two days away.
But they played far from perfect, combining for 21 walks or hit batsmen. Stillwater just managed those missteps better during a 6-2 victory over North in Thursday’s state quarterfinals.
North’s senior-laden lineup recorded three hits and left 13 runners on base — including nine left on during the first three innings. The Timberwolves never took advantage of Stillwater pitchers’ control issues, which yielded eight walks.
“It was interesting, on both sides, that you weren’t getting the outings you expect this time of year,” North coach Brian Aylor said. “But it’s baseball, you never know what’s gonna happen. You roll with it.
“I just think … The tables were set every inning and we could never get the one hit to open the door for us. One of those hits could’ve broken the thing wide open. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get it.”
A stiff wind that blew into the outfield made hitting conditions ideal, but none of North’s three hits produced a run. Grant Randall and Annon Finley both scored thanks to bases-loaded hit batsmen.
Stillwater (27-12) jumped out to a 2-0 lead after Jackson Meyer’s two-run home run against North pitcher Hollis Huff in the top of the first inning. Meyer came up with a big hit against Hunter Jones three innings later, when his two-run double gave the Pioneers a 5-2 advantage.
As Stillwater pulled further away, pressure mounted against North.
“It starts to get in your head a little bit,” Aylor said. “I think the first three innings, we leave the bases loaded every inning. So you’re starting to press and press. There was just no flow for us offensively, no flow for us on the mound. Defensively, I thought we played fine. But those two areas really hurt us today.”
Huff exited after two innings with three earned runs charged to his name and four walks. Stillwater had just three hits against Jones, Brooks Smith and Parker Tipton the rest of the way, but the Pioneers found a way to tally three more runs.
Randall was the most productive player in North’s lineup, going 2 for 3.
“Scoring runs is timely hitting. Throughout the year, throughout this entire season, whenever those situations arose we always had guys that were stepping up and getting hits,” he said. “Unfortunately in this setting … We leave a couple balls down the middle … We pitched, those guys are hitting in 2-0, 3-1 counts. You leave couple balls up and it’s 360 [feet] to center with the wind blowing out, you’re gonna get hurt.”
Stillwater advanced to the Friday quarterfinals against Broken Arrow, which came up with a walk-off 2-1 victory over Deer Creek.
High school baseball
6A state tournament
At Bixby High School
Broken Arrow 2, Deer Creek 1
Jenks 1, Westmoore 0
Stillwater 6, Norman North 2
Edmond Santa Fe 2, Owasso 0
At Bixby High School
Stillwater vs. Broken Arrow, 11 a.m.
Edmond Santa Fe vs. Jenks, 1:30 p.m.
At ONEOK Field
Semifinal winners, 3:30 p.m.