STATE BOUND: Pioneers clinch spot in state tournament with 7-4 win over Bixby

May 1—Stillwater High junior shortstop Ethan Holliday stepped into the box with a 3-1 count and a runner on first base. Bixby sidearm slinger Cade Lewis looked for a strike but instead was met with the fury of Holliday's barrel. As the ball soared over the fence, the aspirations of returning to the state tournament were within reach.

Holliday knew it, too.

"I feel like that was a momentum changer," Holliday said. "They thought they had something going. That swing changed it."

Stillwater secured the victory three innings later, defeating Bixby, 7-4, Wednesday to complete a home-regional sweep. With the win, the Pioneers punched their ticket to the Class 6A State Baseball Tournament.

A season ago, Stillwater advanced to state for the first time since 2019 but lost 3-1 to Yukon in the first game. From that point on, the goal was clear; get back to state.

"We knew we wanted to go back to state after last year," senior pitcher Quintin Robinson said. "We just came together and our offense got hot."

Robinson pitched in the regional-clinching game. He tossed an emotion-filled six innings and allowed three runs and struck out five Spartan batters. After allowing two runs to score in the fifth, Robinson went back out and pitched a scoreless sixth inning, setting up Chase Berger to close the game out.

A controversial call in the top of the seventh wiped two insurance runs off the board for Stillwater, but that didn't stifle any momentum. If anything, it added some. Pioneer head coach Marty Lees considers that a rare ability.

"They create their own energy," Lees said. "It's not from coaches, it's something that's internally in them. It's hard to find and rare to find."

The energy starts with a massive senior class of 14 players. Stillwater is taking an impressive 16-2 record in its past 18 games into the state tournament. The wagon is rolling, and the team chemistry is the catalyst.

"I've played on a lot of baseball teams in my life, and I've never been on one this close," Holliday said. "We're a really talented team. If we keep playing with this kind of energy and this fire, I can see us taking it."

In three regional games, Stillwater outscored its opponents 40-18 and batted .373 as a team. Seniors Talon Kendrick and Owen Coil led the way in RBI with nine and seven, respectively, while Holliday's 11 total bases led the team. All nine batters recorded at least one RBI, as well.

Lees feels that his lineup is dangerous from top to bottom.

"If we're prepared, it doesn't matter who gets in the way," Lees said. "We're gonna play and win."

The first-year Pioneer coach spent 20 years as a Division I baseball coach before landing back in Stillwater. Known for his elite player development skills, that has translated quickly.

After Wednesday's game, Lees stood near the postgame celebration with the regional championship plaque tucked between his left arm. He has been a part of two NCAA National Championships, but something about this Pioneer team has helped rekindle an internal spark.

"This is just as important to them as it is to me," Lees said. "They've given me a new energy and spirit to be a coach."

The state tournament action is scheduled to begin late next week, but official dates, start times and locations are labeled as to be determined as of Wednesday. The News Press will provide updates with state tournament information as it is made public.