Timing has been everything for Norman North’s seniors.
An opportunity to play at the varsity level as underclassmen arose for most them as one large senior class departed when they were freshmen.
Back then, North baseball coach Brian Aylor saw a talented, up-and-coming team on the horizon. But he's not sure he's ever had this much senior leadership before.
“You can identify at an early age that this could be a very special group,” North coach Brian Aylor said, “and we knew it. We knew it as soon as they arrived on campus as freshmen.”
A seasoned Timberwolves club is now in the state tournament for the third time in four years, looking to do what no other North team has done before — win the title.
“When you get to this point, there is nothing more important than experience,” Aylor said. “It is the most important thing when you're going into these environments. And these guys have been here.”
The club’s first challenge is a state quarterfinals matchup with Stillwater at 4 p.m. Thursday at Bixby High School.
It would be a monumental win for North’s 2019 class, which couldn’t get out of the first round as freshmen or sophomores and fell short of the state tournament a year ago.
A roster, which includes 13 seniors, feels they have the tools, though, to get over the hump.
“Last year, unfortunately, we weren't able to make it,” Aylor said, “but to get back to this point with the leadership that we have and the experience we have with these guys in this environment, I think they're going to handle this environment better than a group of guys that haven't ever been there before and don't know what to expect.”
North's veteran mindset was apparent during its run through the regional tournament. The Timberwolves beat Putnam City 5-0, Norman High 6-1 and Mustang 3-1 to advance to state.
At the center of North’s success is a consistent lineup and solid pitching staff.
Seniors Grant Randall and Caleb Cochell are batting .425 and .406, respectively, this season. Randall also leads North in hits (51), RBIs (26) and runs (47) in 2019.
Fellow seniors Dalton Smith, Connor Scott and Hollis Huff are also fueling North’s offense with each recording more than 20 RBIs and 30 hits.
Huff and Parker Tipton have been North's most reliable pitchers with a combined 15-1 record. Junior Lathen Migliorino has helped overall depth with five wins, and senior Brooks Smith returned to the mound recently after missing most of the season due to injury.
North matched a school record 31 wins in its state berth-clinching win over Mustang last Saturday, and it believes it can bring that first state title home from the Tulsa area.
“They've got all the confidence in the world and I truly believe these guys think they can go win this thing,” Aylor said. “It's not going to be easy. It is tough in a single elimination format, anything can happen.”
High school baseball
Class 6A state baseball tournament
At Bixby High School
Game 1: Deer Creek vs. Broken Arrow, 11 a.m.
Game 2: Westmoore vs. Jenks, 1:30 p.m.
Game 3: Norman North vs. Stillwater, 4 p.m.
Game 4: Owasso vs. Edmond Santa Fe, 6:30 p.m.
At Bixby High School
Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 11 a.m.
Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 1:30 p.m.
At ONEOK Field, Tulsa
Semifinal winners, 3:30 p.m.