As if it were borrowing from the playbook of the Oklahoma Legislature, the Pawhuska Huskies high school baseball team is providing us something we do not really need — in this case, a new reason to dread Mondays.
This past Monday found the Huskies in Tonkawa, where they succumbed to the Bucanneers by a score of 11-10. The loss snapped a season-longest, three-game win streak, but it may also have shown some notable progression for the Pawhuska High diamond squad.
PHS remains oh-for-the-year in Monday baseball matchups. With their fourth loss on that dreaded day, the 3A Huskies now have a 10-9 season record, while the Class 2A Bucs improved to a sterling 10-1. (And, get this: Their lone loss was to Okarche, a B Class team.)
The positive news? Nine days earlier, Tonkawa rocked Pawhuska by a 9-1 count in the Northern Oklahoma College tournament.
Maybe the Tonkawa contest, as well as a Tuesday home game with Newkirk, will serve as good tuneups for the Oklahoma Union Tourney this weekend. Action in that event will begin Thursday at the OK Union Cougarland sports complex in suburban South Coffeyville, America.
If the PHS squad can continue to rack up tournament victories, like they did last weekend at Barnsdall, Unkind Monday Syndrome could take care of itself. The all-important state playoffs are fast approaching, with districts due to be decided April 25-27. And the playoffs, after all, are a tournament.
Last Saturday evening, the Huskies were crowned champions of the Barnsdall Invitational Baseball Tournament for the third consecutive year following a lopsided finals victory over Hominy. To claim the first-place trophy, Pawhuska won three games in two days, each against a different Osage County team.
On their way to the championship, the Huskies avenged a bitter loss from earlier in the week by beating their Panther hosts Friday on the same field where they had lost to the on…Monday. The PHS squad also scored its season-high run total in a 25-0 opening-round shellacking of the Prue Rockets.
The Huskies took the title game from the Bucks by a 12-1 margin. Hominy reached the final by outlasting Rejoice Christian, 12-8, in the other Friday night semifinal. And Rejoice, which had only played two games prior to the tourney, wound up getting third place.
After rain delayed the scheduled Thursday start of the tourney, Pawhuska and Barnsdall got started Friday morning with opening-round triumphs against Prue and Pawnee, respectively. The tournament-imposed curfew in the semifinal matchup brought a premature halt to the second meeting in the five days (and third of the season) between the Huskies and Bucks.
A month ago, the Huskies won the initial matchup at Pawhuska, 9-8 in extra innings. Barnsdall evened the series by claiming a 5-4 home win Monday, just as a cold front moved in ahead of the rain.
PHS senior Zak Wilson batted in a month’s worth of runs last week at Barnsdall, while also doing an exceptional job behind the plate. Meanwhile, the other half of the Huskie Z Force, junior Zalin Edwards, laid waste to the competition both offensively as the team leadoff hitter and defensively. And, if the outcome appeared to be in doubt, it was another junior, Tyler Culver, who came to the rescue.
Wilson knocked home the first two runs Friday in the rematch with Barnsdall. After the Panthers scored twice in the fifth to pull within a run of the Huskies, at 4-3, Wilson again delivered for Pawhuska by ripping a two-run single that marked the beginning of the end for the host squad.
The pitcher of the Panthers then committed a throwing error while attempting a pickoff at first. Wilson, the ace running back from the Huskie football team, sped around to third where he was replaced by a courtesy runner, Hayden Javellas. Three pitches later, Javellas — who has a few football moves of his own — scored on a wild pitch to increase Pawhuska’s lead to 7-3.
Payback to Panthers
The tourney-imposed two-hour time limit ended the semifinal game and advanced the Huskies to the championship game. It provided a coup de grace to the fiercely-contested, 8-3 victory over the Panthers.
While Pawhuska led throughout the semifinal contest, Barnsdall plated a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning to trail by only one, 4-3. The Huskies scored four more times in the bottom of the fifth and had two runners on base with one out when time expired.
Slick-fielding plays by shortstop Zalin Edwards helped PHS hold Barnsdall scoreless in the first, although the Panthers loaded the bases. The Huskies went ahead by a 3-0 margin in the last half of the inning thanks to a two-on, two-out infield throwing error by the Panthers and run-scoring single line up the middle by junior Taylor Priest.
Barnsdall put a run on the scoreboard in the third, and the host team could have seen an even bigger inning had it not been for an outstanding defensive play by Pawhuska outfielder Bryce Wilson. With a runner on second an one out, the Panthers were robbed of a sure extra-base hit when Wilson raced deep into the left-field corner to make a backhanded catch of a long fly off the bat of BHS slugger Ethan Shaw.
A leadoff double by Priest resulted in another Pawhuska run, giving the Huskies a 4-1 advantage at the end of four innings. But in the fifth, Barnsdall made a strong bid to seize the lead.
After a four-pitch walk got things started for the Panthers, they scored a give-away run with one out on a wild pickoff throw to second. Barnsdall’s Caleb Hawes blasted an eye-high pitch over the left-field fence for a home run that pulled Barnsdall back to within a run, at 4-3. A hit batsmen and walk followed, putting the tying and go-ahead runs on base — and bringing about a pitching change for the Huskies.
Pawhuska hurler Tyler Culver, replacing starter Eddie Oyster, came on to quell the Barnsdall uprising and preserve the slim remaining lead of the Huskies. He retired both batters he faced by battling back after first falling behind in the count.
Culver started his game-saving relief stint by throwing three straight balls out of the zone. The lanky righthander came back to get a called strikeout off a full-count deliver. He finished the frame by inducing an infield popout on a 3-1 pitch.
Oyster was hit by a pitch to open the PHS fifth. After that, singles by Culver, Wilson and Connor McNeil provided the final surge needed to extend the Huskie at-bats past the time limit and put the semifinal victory on ice.
HUSKIES 8, PANTHERS 3
Barnsdall — 0-0-1 0-2 — 3
Pawhuska — 3-0-0 1-4 — 8
Batteries: Barnsdall: Caleb Hawes and Jake Lanphear; Pawhuska: Eddie Oyster, Tyler Culver (5) and Zak Wilson.
Hits: Barnsdall 4, Pawhuska 5. Errors: Left on base: Pawhuska 6. Doubles: Logan Bryant of Barnsdall, Taylor Priest of Pawhuska. Home Run: Caleb Hawes, Barnsdall.