In the span of two months, Piedmont baseball lost Trevin Michael and Jacob Henson — two of its top four pitchers.
But rather than crater, the Wildcats catapulted. They rode pitchers Brayden Nelson and Ty Anderson to a district title and a regional championship.
Now, PHS is three victories from its first state championship in school history. The Wildcats (26-12) open the Class 5A State Tournament vs. Skiatook (21-10) Thursday at 1:30 at Yukon High School.
“We could’ve done this or that after those guys went down, but the way the guys stepped up, it was just next man up,” head coach Kory Williams said.
Nelson and Anderson have been at the forefront of the surge. Both have ERA’s under three (Nelson 2.16, Anderson 2.29) and have combined to allow just 11 earned runs in their last 71 innings pitched.
“Our guys have confidence with both of them because they’re in the strike zone,” Williams said. “They’re confident they’ll keep us in every game.”
Nelson will get the ball against the Bulldogs Thursday having allowed just two earned runs in his last 38 2/3 innings pitched. Most recently, Nelson won two games in three days including a winner-take-all regional title game vs. Ardmore in which he pitched a complete game shutout.
Williams said that if Piedmont won two games to reach the state championship on Saturday, he’d likely turn the ball back over to Nelson again.
“We feel good about doing that as long as he hasn’t thrown too many pitches,” Williams said.
Skiatook, meanwhile, beat Durant once and Coweta twice in regionals to reach state for the second time in as many seasons.
“They have two good arms and swing it pretty well,” Williams said of the scouting report on the Bulldogs.
Offensively, Piedmont is led by first baseman Koy Priddy, who bats a team-best .393 with a home run and 27 RBI’s. Third baseman and DH Noah Ellis leads the team with 38 RBI’s this season.
The Wildcats last made the state tournament in 2013. Then, Piedmont was, perhaps, just happy to be there. The seniors on this team were freshmen then.
“We’ve talked about not being satisfied this time. Our season isn’t over yet,” Williams said.
Williams’ players appear to have taken the message to heart.
“We’ve got to go win three more now,” Nelson said. “No one wants to be done.”
If their schedule is any indication, the Wildcats won’t be overwhelmed by the competition at state. Piedmont prepared itself with a regular season schedule that included games against 5A state tournament participants Duncan, Shawnee and Pryor, along with games against 4A qualifiers Blanchard and Heritage Hall.
“We’ve played a tough schedule, we’ve played on big stages,” Williams said. “There’s nothing we’ll see at state that will surprise us.”