Soon after he recorded a strikeout to clinch the Class 4A state baseball title, closing out a 4-3 win over Dewey, Tuttle senior Connor Litterell held up a gold sign high above his head following the traditional dogpile near the mound.
The sign featured the initials JT with the words “angel in our outfield,” a tribute to Justin Tiderman, who would have been in the 2014 senior class.
“Justin’s memory really brought all of us together,” Litterell said. “I can’t really explain my emotions. I wanted to win so bad there wasn’t going to be anything to keep me from getting those last three outs in the seventh.”
Justin and his father, Mike, an Oklahoma City fireman, died in an automobile accident returning from a youth baseball game exactly seven years ago to the day the Tigers won their fourth state baseball title Saturday afternoon at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
After Tuttle players and coaches were presented with gold medals, the state championship trophy was handed to Kim Tiderman, Justin’s mother. With Tuttle fans cheering wildly, Kim turned to the crowd and held the trophy high into the air.
“These are my boys,” said Tiderman, tears in her eyes. “They’ve been with me and my other sons (Josh and Jace) since Day 1. Justin meant that much to them. They’ve never forgotten Justin over the years.”
All season long, a No. 19 jersey has hung in front of an empty locker as a tribute.
“We renamed it the Tiderman locker room,” said coach Travis Owen. “Our seniors that played with him when he was younger this was such an emotional day for all of them. His little brother (Jace) is in our program in the seventh grade. What a great way for these seniors go out.”
Litterell, who pitched a complete game in the state tournament opener on Thursday, recorded the final 11 outs. One of the top hitters in Class 4A, Litterell also stroked a two-run single in the first after Dewey scored three in the top of the first.
The No. 1-ranked Tigers (33-7) took the lead in the fourth. Zac Wall tripled to lead off the inning. Wall scored the tying run on Tyler McIntosh’s RBI single. McIntosh scored the go-ahead run on a dropped fly ball in left.
“It’s such a surreal moment to have an angel look over us,” Wall said. “Kim is like a second mom to me. After his passing I had a different connection with her. I was so glad we could bring this state title home to her to honor him and his dad.”
Both teams brought in their aces the final three innings — Dewey going with Carson LaRue, who threw a no-hitter on Thursday. The Tigers countered with Litterell.
“This was an emotional year because of what happened, a teammate who should have been here with us,” McIntosh said. “It feels so special to win it for so many different people.”
Owen played on the first Tuttle state title baseball team in 1988. The Tigers also won titles in 2006 and 2009 when Owen was the head coach at McLoud.
“I’ve coached 18 years and never won a state title as a coach,” Owen said. “I was more nervous today than I was in ’88. With everything surrounding this senior class it was a pretty emotional day for me, for a lot of people.”