Zebras

Claremore freshman Noah Smallwood prepares to make a run at stealing third base during Friday’s game against NOAH in the Zebra/Tigers Classic at American Legion Park.

Friday was supposed to be Claremore’s chance at redemption.

Scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. showdown with rival Bishop Kelley, the team that knocked the Zebras out in last year’s state semifinals, coach Jim Sherl’s crew was determined to best the defending Class 5A champion.

Claremore never got its opportunity, though.

Some untimely thunderstorms rolled through Green Country early that morning, putting the second day of the Zebra/Tiger Classic in jeopardy.

Sherl was hopeful Mother Nature would relent and allow for the highly anticipated rivalry matchup to take place, but it was not to be. Cancellation was an inevitability, and the teams got word just before 1 p.m.

“We got there and the lightning came, which delayed the first scheduled game (Sallisaw vs. Oktaha) by almost 2.5 hours,” Sherl said. “Then the rain came and came, and it just never really would let up.”

There was an attempt to reschedule those games for Saturday, but the field wasn’t quite playable enough for players to navigate safely. The dirt was deemed good, but the outfield was filled with standing water.

Choosing to err on the side of caution, the coaches decided to cancel the remainder of the annual tournament.

Needless to say, the Zebras were beyond disappointed.

“We wanted to play Bishop Kelley because we thought we had a chance to compete with those guys,” Sherl said. “But it gave our guys a chance to rest up for our big district matchups with Pyor.”

Claremore might’ve not gotten the Comets, but Pryor is certainly a good consolation.

The Tigers are also a heated rival of the Zebras, and they owned a two-game winning streak over Claremore heading into Monday’s contest.

Pryor swept the Zebras by a combined total of 32-12 last season and eventually advanced to the state championship game against Bishop Kelley.

“Claremore and Pryor have the rival thing going on, so our kids get excited when we play them, and their kids get excited,” Sherl said. “It’s usually a good game. And I think, for the most part, they have most of their kids back from last year. They graduated one or two, but the core of their team is back. I think they have a bit of a chip on their shoulder from losing in the finals last year, and they are expected to come back and compete for another state championship.”

With the regular season reaching the halfway point, now is time for the Zebras to start hitting their stride and start playing their best baseball.

According to Sherl, Pryor is the perfect team to do just that against.

The 16-year coach said these are the type of games that prepare teams for the regional and state tournaments.

“We don’t like Pryor and Pryor doesn’t like us, but I feel like it’s a blessing to have two really good baseball teams that are so close and get to play,” Sherl said. “To be the best, you have to beat the best, so we try to play each other as much as possible, and it benefits both teams down the road during playoff time.”