NORMAN — Stillwater senior Nick Hollman was overwhelmed with emotion before the seventh inning during Saturday’s Class 6A state championship game.
Tears streamed down his face, but he was not done on the mound for the Pioneers.
Hollman opened the seventh with a strikeout of Tulsa Kelley’s Hunter Hughes before being pulled from the game by coach Jimmy Harris to hugs from his teammates and a standing ovation from the crowd.
“I was a little emotional,” he said. “Everybody started hugging me and talking to me and it got to me.”
Hollman was making just his third start of the season for Stillwater, and he was masterful as he paid tribute to his late brother Max by guiding Stillwater to a 6-0 win over Tulsa Kelley at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
He did not allow a hit until sixth inning when the Comets’ Riley Smith reached on an infield single. He only had to work around five total baserunners — two via walks, two hit by pitch and one by an error.
It was a fitting finale to a season dedicated to Max Hollman, who died in his sleep early in the season. He was 30 years old.
“It was unreal,” said Michael Higgins, Stillwater’s senior catcher and Hollman’s best friend. “He’s a heck of a kid. He’s worked so hard and he deserved every bit of it. I’m proud of him.”
The championship is the Pioneers’ first since a Class A title in 1957.
From the opening inning, there was a special feeling to the game for Hollman, who spent the majority of the season as the closer and recorded eight saves.
He opened by retiring the side on just six pitches and then he was quickly back on the mound with a 2-0 lead after the Pioneers scored on a sacrifice fly by Jon Littell and an RBI double by Higgins.
It was mostly smooth sailing from there against Tulsa Kelley (21-12).
Stillwater (32-4) added four more runs in the third, three of which came on a bases-loaded triple by Tyler Burnett.
“We started feeling it then,” Hollman said. “Everything was on today. I don’t really know why, but it was good. I think (Max) was watching over me today, definitely. I just felt great out there today.”
The Pioneers wore their blue tops, white pants and blue hats in honor of Max. It was the same uniform they all wore to his funeral and the uniform they wore in the regional-clinching win last week with Hollman on the mound.
The plan all along was for Hollman to get a chance to finish the season Saturday while getting some closure, and he saved his best performance for his last.
“It was huge. Gutsy,” senior Carson Teel said. “That was the best performance I think I’ve ever seen him throw. We wouldn’t have wanted any other guy to have that ball during that game. This was his favorite jersey and he went out and balled out for us.”