KINGSTON — The last time Kingston was in the state baseball tournament, even the seniors weren't even close to being born.
It's been 25 years since the Redskins made it to the Big Show, and coach Darron Henson doesn't necessarily think the lack of tournament experience is a bad thing. His team will face Marlow in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament today at Deer Creek High School in Edmond. When they take they field, the Redskins will be oblivious to some of the things that would hold down a team that's been there before.
Like pressure ... expectations ... or what color to dye their hair. The Redskins took care of the latter by shaving their heads after winning regionals.
"We don't really know what to feel right now," senior catcher Harley Cendejas said. "We're excited, but we're nervous. But, hey, it's the state tournament. That's how you're supposed to be."
Kingston (24-9) plowed through its regional in three games, defeating Antlers 18-7 before beating Sulphur 9-2 and 14-8 as the host team and No. 1 seed.
"I was extremely happy with our kids," Henson said. "We're not used to being in that situation (No. 1 seed), didn't get overwhelmed by it. We had 50 hits in three games, scored 40 runs. It's hard to lose when you're scoring nine, 14 and 18 runs."
And just as they scored with ease at their regional, Henson knows the Redskins may not have that kind of production today, tomorrow and hopefully Saturday in the state championship.
Kingston has not faced Marlow this season, but has had familiar opponents in Lake Country Conference teams Davis, Lone Grove, Madill, Sulphur and Plainview. The Outlaws (31-4), coached by former Marietta coach Jeff Brewer, went unbeaten against those teams this season.
"We kinda know what to expect," Henson said of Marlow. "We don't expect to get 20 hits, score 15 runs against them. Hopefully we can scratch out five or six runs and hold them to less."
To the five Kingston seniors, making the state tournament is about more than just finishing their careers with a chance at a state title. It's about setting up the next group of Redskins for success, particularly since so many are contributing right now.
It's a good mixture of experience and youth that's gotten Kingston to the state tournament. The Redskins start three freshmen in Trevor Peoples, Paden Hayes (Jared's brother) and Jackson Beal.
"It means a lot, especially with all the younger guys coming up," said senior shortstop Jared Hayes of making the state tournament. "Just showing them that it can happen here, that it's not just something that people talk about."
Henson said his freshmen have played bigger than first-year players, particularly Beal, who leads the Redskins in batting average (.522), home runs (11) and runs batted in (51).
"Beal is probably the best freshman I've ever coached," Henson said. "Paden Hayes playing second base and batting five hole, and Trevor Peoples playing third have done a really, really good job. Those guys have stepped in and done more than what you'd expect out of freshmen."
Coming into the season, Kingston didn't expect this. While Henson had taken Ardmore to the state tournament twice (2000, 2002) in his tenure with the Tigers from 2000-2004, he never took Sulphur to state while coach there for a short stint. The Kingston seniors — Jared Hayes, Cendejas, Patterson, Kameron Stephens and Chris Stowe — had never known the taste of state.
But after beating Plainview in the Lake Country Conference tournament title game, the belief started to bubble to the surface.
Now, it's here for everyone to see at the state tournament.
"We're a team that probably most everybody didn't think we'd be this good," said senior Jake Patterson, who will get the start on the mound for Kingston today. "All the hard work is paying off.
"Hopefully, going into the state tournament, we can play Kingston baseball and hopefully do better than the team 25 years ago."
Follow Horne on Twitter: @ekhorneARD
Class 3A state tournament
At Deer Creek HS
Verdigris vs. Oklahoma Christian, 11 a.m.
Stroud vs. Vian, 1:30 p.m.
Salina vs. Spiro, 4 p.m.
Marlow vs. Kingston, 6:30 p.m.
At Edmond Santa Fe HS
Verdigris-Oklahoma Christian winner vs. Salina-Spiro winner, 11 a.m.
Marlow-Kingston winner vs. Stroud-Vian winner, 1:30 p.m.
At Edmond Santa Fe HS
Semifinal winners, noon