By Buck Ringgold
OKLAHOMA CITY – On an Owasso team with 16 seniors on the roster, perhaps the player feeling the most pressure Saturday was an underclassman.
J.T. Davis, a sophomore, was handed the assignment to be the starting pitcher for the Rams' Class 6A state championship game against Edmond Santa Fe.
Though Davis had a shaky first inning, he settled down and eventually pitched a complete game. Owasso's bats backed him up, especially with a four-run second as the Rams claimed the program's 14th state championship with a 7-2 win at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
"I felt a little bit of pressure. … (But) I got out here and I just stayed calm and relaxed, and I did great," Davis said. "I had people cheer me on and helped me up and helped me do great for this team and this tournament."
Of the five hits Davis allowed, three came in the first inning as Santa Fe took a 1-0 lead. But he overcame the shaky start and threw three hitless innings from there.
"I think he just settled down a little bit and had really good command of his slider. … He was just cruising," Owasso coach Larry Turner said.
"I thought J.T. was amazing, a sophomore really getting in there after the first inning, settling down and getting established. Obviously, it's going to make him better and then more of a competitor and everything going forward."
Davis also struck out seven, with his final strikeout coming on his final pitch, which was Davis' 120th pitch on a full count. Had Davis allowed the batter to reach base, he would have had to come out due to reaching the mandated 120-pitch limit.
"I just had to relax, calm down, just take deep breaths, keep my confidence up and basically just go throw the ball down the middle," Davis said. "If they hit it, they hit it, but I had people behind me to field the ball."
Owasso broke through with four runs in the top of the second. The big hit came with the score tied at 1-all and the bases loaded.
Noah Smallwood, the team's lead-off batter, hit a shot into the gap in right center where Santa Fe center fielder Drew Qualls nearly made a diving catch. But the ball got past him and rolled to the fence as all three runners scored, with Smallwood making it to third on a triple for a 4-1 Rams' lead.
"My first at-bat, all they did was pitch me outside, so I knew that's exactly what they were going to do," said Smallwood, one of the Rams' 16 seniors. "My second at-bat, I sat on a fastball low and away and hammered it to right center."
Smallwood added there was a chance that Qualls was going to make the catch.