DALE — Dalton Tillison is ready to put Dale's spring championship loss behind him.
The Pirates were the heavy favorite to win the Class 2A spring title last season after winning in the fall, only to watch ace pitcher Evan Anderson allow just one hit in the 3-2 loss to Silo.
Now, No. 2 Dale is back in the fall state tournament looking for yet another championship.
“It was very tough to swallow,” Tillison said. “We didn't put hits in place when we needed them. It was tough to swallow because we had played them last fall in the semifinals and we beat them 3-2.”
The 6-foot-5 left-hander anchors a deep pitching staff entering the Class A tournament, which opens Thursday at 11 a.m. with Dale playing No. 8 Binger-Oney at Edmond Santa Fe.
But it's also a pitching staff that has grown since the spring.
Tillison, who has verbally committed to Seminole State, is 5-1 this season. Seniors Tanner Nelson and Jace Wilkins are also 9-0 and 6-2, respectively.
“We kept our spirits, we kept out nose to the grindstone and kept working on what we need to work on,” Tillison said. “We learned a lot from that game and what we need to improve on.
“We learned that just because we only throw a one-hitter doesn't mean we're going to win the game. It's not all about hits. It's about manufacturing runs.”
The Pirates (25-4) have certainly figured out how to score runs, outscoring their opponents 38-0 in their three regional games.
Offense is where Anderson was likely going to be missed the most this season. The tall left-hander is now at Ole Miss, leaving a hole at the top of the lineup and in center field.
But Dale is still a senior-laden team, boasting eight returning seniors full of state tournament experience.
“It has us, in my opinion, more mentally prepared than other teams,” Tillison said, “We have been in situations a lot more than most other teams. We've been there, we've done that, we've had our practice and we're just going to keep getting better.”
That's exactly what coach Jerry Sanford has seen from his team this season. The Pirates haven't lost since Sept. 12 and only have one losing streak — a two-game skid in early September against state tournament teams Asher and Silo.
Still, Sanford and the Pirates know the favorite may not always win the title.
“Whoever is playing good is going to win,” Sanford said. “We played most everybody in the state tournament. It just boils down to who is playing good, makes the least mistakes and is throwing strikes. Everybody is pretty even.”