The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

May 14, 2014

Chidester leads Jets’ renaissance

ENID, Okla. — Jon Chidester was one of the few bright spots in a 17-39 season for Northern Oklahoma College Enid a year ago, going 4-1 with a 4.04 ERA and a streak of 16 scoreless innings.

Chidester’s maturity and focused attitude on the mound are among the factors in the Jets’ winning the Region 2 tournament and hosting the Plains District Tournament that starts Friday at David Allen Memorial Ballpark, with the winner advancing to the junior college Division II World Series that opens May 24 in Enid.

He will bring a 7-4 record and 3.23 ERA into the tournament. He has struck out 64 batters in 78 innings while walking only 31 batters and allowing only two home runs.

“Time does wonders,’’ Chidester said. “A whole year gives you time to develop. I’m obviously throwing harder than I did last year and I’m more wise. I know what to do in situations. I’ve learned from experience.’’

Chidester’s velocity has increased from 84 to 88 mph. He has a good breaking ball and changes speeds well.

“He throws three pitches that can get people out,’’ said Jets head coach Raydon Leaton. “The biggest difference between this year and last year is that he competes so well. He’s matured a lot, which is what you expect from your freshman to sophomore year.’’

Chidester steps it up a notch when there are runners on.

“I focus up when they get runners on,’’ Chidester said. “My job is not to let them score. I work hard to get outs.’’

Still, Chidester wins by being relaxed.

“I’m pretty laid back,’’ he said. “I don’t go and do a lot of stuff off the field. I’m an easy, happy-go-lucky guy. I’m sure there are people who have different characteristics than me and still succeed, but this benefits me more.’’

While Chidester has more mustard on his fastball, he still wins with brains first.

“You just can’t overpower people with the fastball,’’ he said. “You’ve got to know when to change speeds. Some people like fastballs. With our team, if you throw us 88 mph, we’re going to pound it. You have to change speeds and keep them off balance.’’

His confidence on the mound has grown with the team.

“Last year, we found ways to lose,’’ Chidester said. “This year, we found ways to win. It’s a lot easier to pitch with a lead. I definitely have more confidence this year. Our hitters have bailed us out some this year and we (the pitchers) have bailed them out. When we put everything together, we’re hard to beat.’’

Chidester said sophomore leadership has been another key.

“I’m not a big-time leader by vocalization,’’ Chidester said, “but I do know that people look up to me on the team. I try to do what I need to do, and hopefully, everybody else follows.’’

He has developed excellent chemistry with catcher Dillon Harp, whose strong right arm keeps base runners from stealing second.

“He makes me better than I am,’’ Chidester said. “I don’t think anyone has stolen on me this year. That gives me a lot of confidence.’’

Pitching coach Scott Mansfield calls the pitches for Chidester, who has the option of shaking him off.

“We’re on the same page,’’ he said

Chidester has already signed with NCAA Division II Southwestern Oklahoma State, which takes some pressure off him.

“That was a big thing for me,’’ Chidester said. “I struggled a little bit early, and one of the factors was stress. I was just trying to do too much and trying to pitch too good  to try to go somewhere. When I finally committed, it took some weight off my shoulders. I’m having fun now.’’

He follows a long line of Jets to SWOSU, coached by Zach Saunders, assisted by ex-Jet Cole Stephens.

“It was a good fit for me,’’ Chidester said. “I like the coaches, and it’s a pitchers ballpark.’’

Chidester, a native of Rome, Texas, is one of several Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex players on the NOC Enid  roster. He was discovered by assistant coach Scott Mansfield playing in the Texas Sticks League there.

His summer teammates included current Jets Haden Johnson and Matt Kennewell, and he played against current teammate Russ Colgan.

“I really had a good visit,’’ he said. “I liked the ballpark and everything paid off.’’

Chidester was not discouraged by the Jets’ disappointing 2013 season.

“We call last year a fluke,’’ Chidester said. “This year, we’re doing what we set out to do all along. We’re proving it now. It’s a heck of a turnaround from last year. I’m happy, and I’m really excited where I’m at.’’

Leaton has not set his rotation for Friday’s games when NOC Enid plays Hesston (Kan.) at 3 and Longview (Maplewood, Mo.) at 6. Chidester has two wins over Hesston this season.

The survivors advance to a 1 p.m. game Saturday. If a second final is needed, it will b played at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s good that we have beaten them before, but that doesn’t matter if we don’t beat them now,’’ Chidester said. “We’re confident, but we have to take care of business.

“It’s fine and dandy we won the Region, but we have to move past it. We have bigger things to accomplish. That (Region championship) wasn’t our goal at the beginning of the season. Winning the World Series was.’’

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