Knights make history 20 years ago with first state baseball title
In 2002, the Henryetta varsity baseball team reached the state championship game for the first time in school history.
The Knights finished the 2002 campaign with the Class 3A runner-up trophy after falling to Verdigris by a 2-1 margin.
In 2003, Henryetta baseball made its way back to the Class 3A state title game.
The second time was the charm for the Knights, as the 2003 Henryetta diamond squad hoisted their very first state championship in school history with a 2-0 victory over Marietta in the Class 3A state championship game.
The Knights entered the 2003 campaign looking to wash the bad taste of the runner-up finish in 2002 out of their mouths and were determined to not finish 2003 as the No. 2 team in Class 3A.
Head coach Keith Furer and his Henryetta diamond squad battled every time they stepped on the field in 2003, taking on tough teams from across the state in all classifications.
The Knights finished the regular season with a 26-4 record with the four losses coming against Class 6A’s Muskogee, Class 5A’s McAlester, Class A’s Red Oak, and Class 2A’s Latta.
The 2003 Henryetta squad featured lots of talented athletes on the roster, including senior standout Bryant Beaver. Beaver was the ace of the Knight pitching staff and was also a defensive workhorse at shortstop, making outstanding play after outstanding play on the infield. Beaver also was a major asset at the plate with his power-hitting ability, which included driving pitches deep over the outfield wall for moon shot home runs. Beaver also could drive in runs with base hits to the outfield and also displayed speed to – at times – turn a single into a double.
O ther key contributors for the Knights both offensively and defensively in 2003 were senior Cody Mc-Cart and juniors Ronald Chavez and Sawyer Carroll.
Some other members of the Henryetta everyday lineup were Caleb Dixon, J.R. Williams, Ryan White, Dylan Allen, Daniel Thomasson, and Kendall Moore.
In fact, it was Williams’ outstanding defensive play in the fifth inning of the Class 3A state championship game that helped thwart a scoring chance for Marietta. Williams raced to catch a fly ball in center field, then fired a strike to Chavez, who relayed the throw to White at the plate, forcing the Marietta runner into a rundown with White tagging the runner in between third and home.
Marietta’s only other scoring threat in the title game came in the top of the first. After the leadoff hitter drew a walk on four-straight pitches, the runner was erased on a stolen base attempt by White, who was playing with a broken hand, at second to end the early threat.
At the Class 3A state tournament, Beaver was dominated on the mound, tossing a total of 15 scoreless innings in three games. The senior standout earned the pitching win in the Knights’ opening-round win over Metro Christian, tossing five scoreless innings of relief. Beaver threw three scoreless innings of relief in Henryetta’s semifinal win over Sperry to earn the pitching save, then tossed a complete- game, four-hit, shutout in the championship game against Marietta.
With a dominating regular season, the Knights were awarded the top spot in the Class 3A rankings in 2003, earning the HHS squad an automatic regional tournament berth after receiving a bye in the district tournament.
Henryetta was ranked No. 1 in Class 3A when the district tournament pairings were released and received a bye in the district tournament, earning an automatic berth in the Class 3A regional tournament.
After the district tournament bye, the Knights began postseason play by hosting a 4-team regional tournament. Joining Henryetta at the double- elimination playoff event were the Spiro Bulldogs, Tahlequah Sequoyah Indians, and the Knights’ arch rival, the Morris Eagles.
The opening-round games at the regional tournament featured Morris battling Tahlequah Sequoyah and the host Knights squaring off against Spiro.
Henryetta advanced to the winner’s bracket semifinals with an 11-6 win over Spiro, while Tahlequah Sequoyah moved on with a 5-0 win over Morris.
The Knights routed the Indians 22-4 in the winner’s bracket semifinal contest, moving to within one win from their fifth-straight state tournament appearance.
After Morris edged past Spiro 14-13 in the first elimination game, Tahlequah Sequoyah earned a rematch with Henryetta following a 7-2 victory over Morris in the second elimination contest of the regional tournament.
The Knights needed just one game to punch their ticket to the Class 3A state tournament, defeating Tahlequah Sequoyah by an 11-1 margin to capture the regional championship trophy.
The other seven teams that earned spots at the Class 3A state baseball championships in 2003 were Marietta, Newcastle, Metro Christian, Sperry, Plainview, Valliant, and Perkins-Tryon. The Knights were unable to avenge their state title loss to Verdigris in 2003, as the Cardinals were defeated by Metro Christian in their regional tournament.
Henryetta’s first obstacle in its way to the state championship was the Metro Christian Patriots, who featured standout Kelly Largent, son of NFL Hall of Famer Steve Largent.
In the opening-round meeting, the Patriots tallied its lone run in the top of the second for an early 1-0 advantage. The Knights countered with two runs in the bottom of the frame to take a 2-1 lead after two innings of action.
The Henryetta squad did not relinquish its lead against Metro Christian, as the Knights added a run in the third, four in the fourth, and two in the fifth for a commanding 9-1 margin.
Beaver, who took over for starter Caleb Dixon at the start of the third inning, shut down the Metro Christian offense in the sixth and seventh innings to preserve the Knights’ opening-round, 9-1, win. Henryetta’s semifinal opponent was the Sperry Pirates, who advanced with a 6-0 victory over Plainview in the first round.
Against Sperry, the Knights did most of their offensive damage in the bottom of the second, plating five runs in the frame for a 5-0 advantage. The Henryetta squad tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the home half of the third to extend its lead to 7-0 after three innings of play.
Sperry broke up the shutout bid with two runs in the top of the fourth, then Henryetta head coach Keith Furer sent Beaver to the mound in relief at the start of the fifth inning with the senior hurler keeping the Pirates at bay in the final three innings to put the Knights into the Class 3A state championship game for the second-straight season.
The Knights were opposed by the Marietta Indians, who advanced to the title game with wins over Newcastle (7-4) and Perkins-Tryon (2-1), respectively.
In the title game, Furer put the Knights’ title hopes on the shoulders of his ace, giving the start to Beaver, while Marietta countered with its ace, Cole Reed.
Beaver held the Indians at bay throughout his seven innings of work with Marietta threatening only twice in the contest, but the threats were thwarted by outstanding defensive plays by Ryan White and J.R. Williams in the first and fifth innings, respectively.
The only scoring in the title game came in the bottom of the third.
Ronald Chavez began the inning with a one-out single and moved to second on a well-placed sacrifice bunt by Sawyer Carroll. The Marietta head coach decided to intentionally walk Beaver to put runners at first and second with two outs.
Caleb Dixon drove in Chavez with an RBI single to right, then Beaver scored the second Henryetta run of the inning on an RBI single by Cody McCart to put the Knights ahead by two, 2-0, after three innings of action.
After Williams’ defensive gem in the fifth, Beaver kept the Marietta offense at bay in the final two innings, recording the final out in the top of the seventh by way of a strikeout, sending Henryetta coaches, players, and fans into celebration mode with the Knights winning the first state baseball championship in school history and eliminating the bad taste of the 2002 state runner-up finish out of their mouths.
Beaver’s final game in a Henryetta uniform saw the senior right-hander toss a complete-game, four-hit, shutout with nine strikeouts and two walks in the Class 3A state championship game.
The Knights were unable to defend their state championship the following season, falling to Sperry by a 6-5 margin in nine innings in the opening round of the Class 3A state baseball championships. The 2004 first-round battle with Sperry was a rematch of the 2003 semifinal round which Henryetta won by a 7-2 margin.
Henryetta has reached the state baseball tournament only one other time since 2004, falling in the first round of the 2012 state tournament by a 4-2 margin to Metro Christian.
Besides 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2012, the Knights have also punched their ticket to State in high school baseball in 1947, 1948, 1949, 1997, 1999, and 2000.
The 2003 state championship for Henryetta was the first title for an Okmulgee County baseball team since Dewar won the Class A crown in 1978.
The 2003 season also featured the first (and only) time two Okmulgee County baseball teams reached the state championship game in the same season, as the Knights joined the Preston Pirates, who finished runner-up in Class 2A in 2003.
The Knights are the last county team to capture a state baseball championship with the Beggs Golden Demons being the last county team to reach the state title game (Beggs lost to Sperry in the Class 3A title contest in 2008).
— 2003 Henryetta Knight Spring Baseball Record: 32-4 (No. 1 in Class 3A) Head Coach: Keith Furer Team Members (Not All Included) Bryant Beaver Ronald Chavez Sawyer Carroll Cody McCart Caleb Dixon J.R. Williams Ryan White Dylan Allen Daniel Thomasson Kendall Moore Derrick Brison Cody Blades — 2023 Postseason Results Class 3A District Tournament Received Bye — Class 3A Regional Tournament At Henryetta
Henryetta 11, Spiro 6 Henryetta 22, Tahlequah Seq. 4 Henryetta 11, Tahlequah Seq. 1 — Class 3A State Tournament
At Dale High School (first round, semifinals) and Shawnee High School (finals)
Henryetta 9, Metro Christian 1 Henryetta 7, Sperry 2 Henryetta 2, Marietta 0