The quest for a return trip to the Class 5A State Championship game continues to be the motivation for the Claremore Zebras.
Coming into the season, the 2013 Zebras are ranked No. 2 in the Class 5A baseball rankings.
Claremore (6-0) ranks second behind 2012 Class 5A state champion Carl Albert, who is 7-0 on the year.
Last May, Carl Albert built a decisive lead on the Zebras in the state championship game and eventually came away with the 6-2 win.
Both teams, though, lost a tremendous amount of offensive production, but their defense and pitching will be a key integral part in a possible rematch at the end of the season.
Through six games, the Zebras pitching staff — led by junior right-hander Bryce Howe and senior left-hander Jacob Teague — has held the opposition to one run and less than five hits.
Howe (2-0) on the year tossed a no-hitter in Claremore’s 10-0 win over Skiatook in the Metro Lakes Conference opener, and followed up with a one-hitter in the Zebras’ 12-0 win at Sallisaw.
Teague, in his first outing of the year last Friday night, held Skiatook to one hit on five strikeouts to earn the win.
Also seeing time on the mound for the Zebras are senior right-hander Tyler Cagle (2-0) and junior right-hander Cole Weiesnbach (1-0).
Weiesnbach combined with Teague to collect the 5-0 win over Skiatook at Bulldog Field.
With a Spring Break trip to the Aggie Classic next week in Pensacola, Fla., Zebra head coach Brent Payne needs his pitchers seeing a lot of innings.
The Zebras’ offense, however, has been a bright spot, producing 58 runs in six games.
Senior right-fielder Isaac Hollihan, who hits from the left side in the No. 5 hole, had a solid outing at the plate in Claremore’s sweep of East Central Tuesday night.
Hollihan led Claremore to a 10-0 and 15-0 win over the Cardinals, producing a two-run triple in the night-cap of the doubleheader.
He also had singles in both games, and was aided at the plate by senior teammate Andrew Byington, who had three hits against East Central.
Joining Claremore in the Class 5A rankings are Metro Lakes Conference opponents and area teams — No. 11 Pryor (4-3), No. 12 Grove (7-0), No. 14 Coweta (3-2), No. 16 Booker T. Washington (2-4), No. 17 Collinsville (2-4), No. 18 Skiatook (2-4) and No. 19 Tahlequah (3-4).
The top 5 Class 5A teams in Oklahoma — according to OKRankings.com — are No. 1 Carl Albert, No. 2 Claremore, No. 3 Edmond Deer Creek, No. 4 McAlester and No. 5 Bishop McGuinness.
Note: Claremore travels to Booker T. Washington at 4:30 p.m. today in Tulsa.