'CONFIDENCE BREDS SUCCESS': Pair looks back at Tigers 2024 State season

May 14—Over the years, the Tahlequah baseball team hadn't been getting much recognition during end-of-season awards. Talented players have been overlooked once it came time to vote.

But this season, the Tigers overpowered the competition and dominated the District 5A-4 Awards. They took home Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, and Coach of the Year, and numerous other players were named to the first team or honorable mention.

"The awards speak to how hard these guys have worked," THS head coach Cody Pair said. "I know they haven't been recognized in the past, and they appreciate the fact that they were able to be recognized for their hard work and what they accomplished. Their success on the field and off speaks to the work ethos and determination that these young men showed this year."

At the end of the day, Chance Pair (Player of the Year), Brayden Northington (Pitcher of the Year), and Eli Gibson, Beckett Robinson, Synjin Sampson, Cutter Girdner and Levi Kelly were honored as First Team All-District. Jacob Morrison, Tate Trammel, Harry Hanley and Will Talburt were also honored on the Honorable Mention Team.

The team that ended the season in the State Tournament wasn't the same one that opened the season March 1 against Sallisaw. Throughout the season, the Tigers continued to improve, finishing with a 24-12 record. THS racked up more than 20 wins for the first time since 2018.

A philosophy from Pair reflected the success the Tigers experienced this season.

"I tell our guys, 'Confidence breeds success and success breeds confidence; you're one pitch away from being great,' and the guys embraced that," Pair said. "As they had success, their confidence went up, and that confidence led to them continuing to perform better and better. They worked hard this year in the off-season and played their tails off throughout the season."

Growing throughout the season was important in helping the Tigers build that confidence.

"Individually they improved in every facet, and as a team, we did the same," Pair said. "Offensively was our biggest growth. Learning how to have an approach and how to play situational baseball was the biggest thing we emphasized. The players worked so hard to get better and to help us to achieve what we did."

The Tigers got better and better as the days went by, but what they experienced before this season might have prepared them better than any in-season hurdle. Throughout the last several seasons, the Tigers were moved up to 6A due to higher enrollment during COVID-19. Competing against bigger teams, THS took lumps to await their return to 5A.

While Pair wasn't at THS last season, he can see how it prepared his team.

"I can't speak to last year. I know they didn't have much success and that is difficult to endure," Pair said. "I don't know what last year did to prepare them, but I can tell you for sure that this year, they worked hard and prepared themselves to achieve what they did."

Next season, the Tigers will suffer some big losses. They are set to lose Pair, Northington, Trammel, Morrison and Gibson. Despite this, THS will return six players honored by the district.

Still, after finishing up every season, Pair asks himself, "How are we ever going to replace that guy?" But it tends to work out, according to Pair.

"Every year I have ever been a coach, I would see a guy graduating and say, 'How are we ever going to replace that guy?' Then someone else steps up and performs at a high level and the cycle continues," Pair said. "There are five seniors that I wonder how we will ever replace. From the on-field play to their leadership in the locker room, to their leadership in the dugout, those five young men were absolutely instrumental to our successes."

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