KETCHUM — If experience means anything, then Oktaha has the upper hand in the Class 2A baseball regional that gets under way here today.
The Tigers, 21-4 and ranked second in 2A, have reached the finals in each of the last two state tournaments — spring 2008 and fall 2008 — and they’ve made 11 trips to the state meet under coach Chris Burt.
"There’s no substitute to getting out on the field and playing," Burt said. "I attribute part of that to playing fall and spring. You get two seasons of it. We’ve had good baseball kids over the year. I have been fortunate to be a part of it.
The Tigers are joined by Fairland, Commerce and host Ketchum in the field here.
Oktaha and Ketchum play at 1:30 p.m. with Lucky 7 Conference rivals Commerce and Fairland squaring off at 3:30 p.m.
The winners play at 5:30 p.m. with the losers squaring off at 7:30 p.m.
An elimination game and the championship game will be Friday at 4 and 6 p.m.
An "if necessary" game will be at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"Oktaha is good, from what I have read and heard," Commerce coach Clint Kissee said. "I've been ranking them in the top 5 all year. They have a big advantage over all the schools that play football in the fall — they basically play baseball 9 months out of the year. It sure makes it tough to compete with them year in and year out. They just get so much more practice and game time than the football playing schools."
The Tigers are led by three seniors: first baseman-catcher Steven Downum and outfielder-pitcher John Hayes and Eric Sheridan.
Junior right-hander Cale Elam is Oktaha’s ace, according to Burt. He plays shortstop when not on the mound.
Sophomore Cameron Proctor pitches and plays the outfield.
“He’s got a good arm,” Burt said. “He and Elam have thrown the majority of our innings.
Daniel Hayes won some big games for the Tigers in the fall but has been plagued by arm problems.
This will be the fifth meeting of the season between Commerce and Fairland, with the Owls taking the four previous games.
FHS rolled 21-1 in the finals of the Lucky 7 Conference tournament at Quapaw and 12-2 in the opening round of the Ketchum Warrior Hardball Classic.
The Owls also posted 5-2 and 10-8 wins in regular-season play.
Ketchum is 1-3 against the two Lucky 7 Conference teams.
Commerce claimed an 8-7 victory on March 13, but the Warriors notched a 14-11 decision in a pool game at the Warrior Hardball Classic.
Fairland rolled 8-0 in a Classic pool game then held on for a 9-6 decision on April 7.
“I don’t see us preparing much differently than normal,” Kissee said. “We’ve all seen each other, and are familiar with each other, so to me that’s a good thing. Ketchum is a solid ball club. They’ve won 19 games this year just like us. The main difference I see in our regional is all four teams have won enough games to be ranked.”
Jim Ellis, 542-5533, ext. 3052