Capping a perfect week with a near-perfect diamond performance, the Pawhuska Huskies claimed the championship of last week’s Pawhuska High School Baseball Tournament by notching a 5-0 triumph over the Shidler Tigers in the Saturday evening finals.
PHS’s ace senior hurler Tyler Culver struck out 13 opposing batters en route to the two-hit shutout, which marked the fifth Huskie victory in the past six days. It was the initial loss of the year for the Class B Tigers, who had opened the season with 15 wins in a row.
"We hit the ball pretty well and played solid defensively," said Pawhuska coach Brian Edwards. "Our pitching was strong, too.
"It’s good to see things start coming together," he added.
Three straight tourney wins for PHS followed a Monday road victory (7-2 at Tonkawa) and an extra-inning home triumph Tuesday, 6-5, over the Blackwell Maroons. The Huskies’ season record now stands at 7-5, with the team’s next game set Tuesday in Tulsa versus Lincoln Christian. On Thursday, Pawhuska opens play in the Oklahoma Union Tournament, which continues through Saturday.
Edwards said the Pawhuska team’s defense nearly invited disaster in the Tuesday victory versus Blackwell.
"After jumping out to a 5-0 lead, we stopped hitting," the PHS coach said. "Then we made some errors and let them tie the game, but we finally pulled it out with a run in the ninth."
Kendall Oller, a senior righthander, pitched Pawhuska’s first six innings against Blackwell. Another senior righty, Taylor Priest, finished up to earn the victory.
In their tourney opener Thursday with Newkirk, the Huskies scored six times in the top of the first inning on the way to a 14-6 crushing of the Tigers. An early offensive blow came via a bases-loaded triple by Oller, who finished the night five-for-five at the plate.
"In that one, we did what we needed to do and kept scoring runs," Edwards said.
Edwards added that Newkirk provided PHS with a test against a quality squad that the Huskies could meet again in the post season.
"We’re wanting to face other 3A teams," said the coach.
Facing the 2A Hominy Bucks in Friday’s tournament semifinals, the Pawhuskans again started the by tallying a half dozen runs in the first. PHS junior Kylar Moody drove in Huskie lead-off hitter Zalin Edwards and Culver, who had both walked to open the contest.
Later in the frame, Priest drilled a two-run single to right-center and Edwards knocked him home with a smash down the left field line.
Connor McNeil finished the game with three singles in three official at-bats. Scoring two runs apiece were Edwards, Culver, Moody, McNeil and Priest, while Culver and sophomore Chandler Collins both knocked in runs.
Moody threw four strong innings in his first start of the year. The junior righthander struck out six and walked none, allowing just one run on three hits. McNeil closed out the victory by retiring three straight in the fifth and striking out the last two batters he faced.
Masterful mound work in the finale by the Huskies’ Culver was nearly matched by a yeomanlike effort by Shidler junior Austin French. PHS tallied a run in the first when Culver smashed a one-out single through the box, stole second and crossed the plate on Moody’s two-out RBI hit to center.
Pawhuska managed a second run in the fifth after Edwards reached second off a two-out fly to left-center field and scored when Bryce Wilson ripped a sharp liner into right. The Huskies finally got to French in the sixth inning and extended their advantage to 5-0 before a questionable out call at the plate snuffed the home rally.
McNeil led off with a hit and advanced to third after a sacrifice bunt from Oller and a one-out single by Collins, who then stole second. Priest put PHS in front, 4-0, with a two-run hit through the middle. A single by Edwards scored Priest to make it 5-0.
In addition to his stellar pitching, Culver finished three-for-three at the plate (he also was intentionally walked once and stole three bases). Priest singled twice, scored one run and drove in two.
French struck out 10 batters for the Tigers, while walking four and plunking another with a pitch. He gave up eight hits to the Huskies, but all were singles and five of them came in the three-run sixth.
The Pawnee Black Bears topped Hominy in the tourney’s third-place contest and the Caney Valley Trojans defeated Newkirk for fifth. Pawhuska’s Jayvee squad dropped games to Shidler and Caney Valley.
HUSKIES 5, TIGERS 0
Pawhuska: 1-0-0 0-1-3 0 — 5
Shidler: 0-0-0 0-0-0 0 — 0
Shidler (15-1): Austin French p and Landon Roe c
Pawhuska (7-5): Tyler Culver p and Zalin Edwards c