Summer league baseball has finally reached the big dance and a Southern Oklahoma mainstay is right in the thick of it.
The American National Bank Ardmore Cardinals begin play Wednesday in the American Legion Baseball Senior State Tournament when they face the Bartlesville Indians at 9:30 a.m. in Miami.
The eight-team tournament will feature four first round games on Wednesday and follow with winner's and loser's bracket games on Thursday and through the weekend.
"It will be important for our guys to come out and play well in that first game," said Cardinals coach Bubba Tamez. "We will need all the rest we can get and a win on Wednesday morning will give us off until Thursday night."
Ardmore (14-17) hasn't played in almost a week, after its weekend doubleheader against Asher was rained out.
"The break is good for our pitchers, having a week off will surely give those guys some rest," Tamez said.
The Cardinals did seen some improvement during the week prior, however, as they played five games in four days and finished 3-2, with the majority of those games against stiff competition.
"We played some good teams in the McKinney Tournament," said Tamez. "We started producing runs and playing more small ball. We hadn't shown that a lot and we wanted to work on it. It paid off for us and I think it gave us some confidence. Our pitching was good again, our staff is really hitting their stride."
Ardmore will have four players that will make the trip to Miami following tonight's Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State baseball games. Hunter Stephens (Murray State/Silo), Cade Clay (Rattan) and Cade Carter (Colbert) will play in the small schools game, while Jared Hayes (Murray State/Kingston) will participate in the large schools game.
"Those guys will be able to make it up after their game is finished tonight," Tamez said. "They'll be ready to go and hopefully will be warmed up."
Teams that will join Ardmore at the state tournament are the Asher Braves, Oklahoma City Bulls, Bartlesville, Miami Wardogs, Southwest Shockers, Midwest City Outlaws and Three Rivers.
"It's always good to be familiar with your opponents in baseball, but our first game is against Bartlesville and we haven't seen them yet," said Tamez. "But Scott Brinkley (Tushka) will start for us and he's been really good. We feel confident with him on the mound."
This tournament will feature nine-inning games, as opposed to the usual seven-inning games that normal summer league teams play.
"Relief pitching will be huge," Tamez said. "Our relief guys are going to have to pitch well for us this week and possibly even start some games, but they're looking forward to the opportunity."
Follow Carter on Twitter: @wcarterARD