By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Spring break couldn’t have come at a better time for Northern Oklahoma College Enid ace pitcher Zach Postoak.
He went home to Tulsa and straight to the fishing hole.
“Fishing relaxes me and keeps my mind off some bad things,’’ said Postoak, who will pitch the first game of a doubleheader against Dodge City, Kan., at noon today at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.
“If something goes wrong, I go fish and relax. Spring break was a perfect time to go clear my mind.’’
There were a lot of bad things to forget about before spring break for the Jets, who will take a 5-17 record into the doubleheader.
Postoak, who battled shoulder problems early, was one of the bright spots with a 2-2 record, a 5.40 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 211⁄3 innings as opposed to 10 walks.
But he had a tough 2-1 loss to Dodge City last week in the Jets’ last doubleheader before the break.
“We need to get a couple of wins to get into the rhythm of winning before conference (Murray State, April 4),’’ Postoak said. “I want to be the guy they depend on to get a stop. I was here last year. I feel like that’s my job to hold them where they are at.’’
Postoak threw his strongest game of the season against Dodge last week, allowing only four hits over six innings while striking out four and walking one.
“It was a pitcher’s battle,’’ Postoak said. “We had a couple of chances to get guys in. That’s how baseball is sometimes. I should have done some things better to help me out... but it’s OK.’’
Postoak said he is thinking shutout.
“Against their guys, if you can hit your spots, they are going to get themselves out with a lot of ground balls,’’ he said. “If I keep the ball down, they will get themselves out.’’
Postoak is a finesse pitcher who throws three pitches for strikes.
“He pounds the zone and competes,’’ said Jets coach Raydon Leaton. “He deserved a win last week. I hope we can get him one tomorrow.’’
“I’m a pitcher who has to hit his spots or it won’t be a good day,’’ Postoak said. “I started off a little rough, but I’m getting better as I get more starts.’’
Postoak had a shoulder problem early, which caused him to miss the season-opening series against Cloud County. He said the injury was more like a “dead arm’’ and was nothing serious.
He is extra careful to protect the arm in cold weather. He does extra stretching and keeps his jacket on in the dugout.
“When it’s cold, I try not to think about it,’’ Postoak said. “Sometimes, it gets to you, and that makes it tougher. A lot of it is in your head. Once it gets warmer, it’s a lot easier to throw strikes.’’
With a year behind him, he is more mentally tough than in his freshman year. He was a hard-luck 3-6 with a 3.09 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 67 innings with just 17 walks.
“Last year when I came in I didn’t have a spot,’’ Postoak said. “This year, I know I have one. I focus on what I can do and what I should do.’’
He is not panicking about the team’s slow start.
“We just have to put everything together,’’ he said. “I would rather be slumping now than in conference. I know we can. We have a shot to win the conference tournament if we put things together.
“Conference is a new season. Once it starts, it doesn’t matter what you did before. That’s what keeps you going.’’
Being one of the few experienced pitchers on the team, he has taken a leader’s role.
“There a lot of young guys on the team, and I’m here to set an example for them and lead them in the right direction,’’ Postoak said.
Postoak said the pitching staff works well together. He relies on the advice of third-year sophomores Hayden James and Christian Lafontan.
“Those guys have been here longer than me,’’ he said. “They give me advice when I need it. We try to help each other as much as we can.’’
He jokes his favorite pitcher used to be Josh Beckett but “he’s gone downhill a bit.’’
Dodge City’s lineup includes area stars Haden Houska of Enid and Connor Ross of Mooreland.
Today’s doubleheader is the start of a stretch of seven games in five days for the Jets.
Austin Hilton (0-1, 7.42) will pitch the second game. James (1-3, 8.75 ERA) and Austin Hannum (0-1, 7.24 ERA) are scheduled to pitch a doubleheader at Pratt, Kan., Wednesday. NOC Enid is undecided about Thursday’s pitcher for a single game at Connors.
The Jets will host Northeastern A&M at 1 p.m. Saturday at Failing Park on campus.
Korbin Polston leads the offense with a .409 average with three homers and 20 RBI. He is followed by Chase Knott (.328, 12 RBI), Sammy Terry (.314, two homers, 15 RBI) and Aaron McCandless (.306, 12 RBI).
“It’s an important week,’’ Leaton said.