STRATFORD — Despite their 19-3 record, the Stratford Bulldogs will have a lot to prove in their Class A District Tournament at Rock Creek Wednesday afternoon.
Mark Qualls’ club — unranked although it has fewer losses than any team in Class A except 19-2 Fletcher — will meet Elmore City-Pernell at noon Wednesday and, win or lose, will face No. 10 Rock Creek later in the day. The Game 1 loser will take on the hosts in the second game, and the winner will meet Rock Creek at 4 p.m.
“It’s a tough draw,” Qualls said. “It’s not just Rock Creek, but Elmore City is better this year. We can’t take them lightly and go down there just worrying about Rock Creek.”
“It’s nothing new,” he said. “We can’t ever get the respect we deserve in baseball.”
Stratford split doubleheaders with Vanoss (No. 6 in Class 2A) and Asher (No. 8 in Class B) this spring, but the Bulldogs’ overall strength of schedule probably kept them out of the Class A Top 20 and ultimately sent them on a tougher playoff road than Qualls said their season merited.
“Some people are just known for their baseball, and those things are kind of hard to fight sometimes,” he noted. “We’ll see what happens. Right now, I’m just trying to keep everybody healthy.”
Junior Dalen Qualls (8-1) and senior Tyler Mills (3-1) head the Stratford pitching rotation, and another senior, Tyler Gaines, is a solid 6-1 this spring. Mark Qualls said, however, that his pitching depth is his major worry heading into a three-team district tournament.
“My main concern is whether or not we’ll have enough pitching to get through it,” he explained. “I won’t be able to throw any of my main guys Monday (against Asher in the Bulldogs’ regular-season finale), because I have to save their arms.”
Wednesday marks the beginning of the spring baseball playoffs in Classes A and B, and all classes in softball open the postseason this week.
Roff (No. 1 in Class B) will host Paoli in the only other baseball district tournament Wednesday involving an area team (first game at 4 p.m.), and Thursday’s schedule has Allen at Stonewall in Class A and Calvin at Tupelo and Wanette at Asher in Class B. Allen will play Stonewall beginnning at 4:30 p.m., and the other two Thursday doubleheaders will start at 4 p.m.
Stratford’s softball team will travel to Wayne for a Class 3A District Tournament Wednesday, with the Lady Bulldogs taking on Maysville at 1 p.m. The loser of that game will meet No. 5 Wayne at 2 p.m., and the winner will take on the hosts at 3 p.m.
Thursday’s schedule is loaded with contests involving area teams.
Byng will meet Seminole at 4 p.m. in the opener of a Class 5A District at Little Axe where the host squad is ranked No. 3, and another 5A softball district will take place in Holdenville where the host Lady Wolverines will host Coalgate in a 4 p.m. doubleheader.
In Class 4A, No. 1 Konawa will be on the road in a three-team district at Wewoka that also includes the host Lady Tigers and Warner (first game at 12 noon), while at Latta, the No. 7 Lady Panthers will meet Savanna at 2 p.m. to kick off a district tournament that also includes No. 12 Silo.
Roff, ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, will host Macomb, Wapanucka and Bowlegs in a four-team district that begins with the Lady Tigers facing Macomb at 11 a.m. Thursday. Elsewhere in 2A, host Sasakwa — coming off back-to-back fast-pitch state titles in Class B and looking for a second straight slowpitch state tournament berth — will play Allen at 11 a.m. to open a four-team district that also includes New Lima and Strother.
In Class A, Tupelo’s fourth-ranked Lady Tigers will take the first step on a road they hope will lead them to a fifth straight slowpitch state tournament when they host Mill Creek in a two-team district beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Friday’s only district tournament involving an area team will be at Sulphur, where the Lady Bulldogs (No. 16 in Class 5A) will meet No. 19 Lexington at 3:30 p.m., with the loser and winner both meeting Dickson later in the afternoon.