The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

July 2, 2014

Enid on a Major roll

ENID, Okla. — This season’s Majors already are on the most successful run of Enid’s four-year stint in Connie Mack baseball, simply by virtue of winning the regional qualifying tournament last month at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.

That team isn’t even at its best yet.

Buoyed by a pitching staff that has combined to post a 1.95 ERA, the Majors are riding high entering the most important month of their season — maybe of their Connie Mack tenure — at 27-9, winners of ther last eight out of nine and potentially two weeks away from ace Bradley Kinsey joining that staff.

Today begins an important stretch for the Majors as they open play in the annual Glen Winget Tournament at 5:30 p.m. against Wellington, Kan., in Bartlesville.

The Connie Mack State Tournament opens July 16 at David Allen, followed by the July 22 regional, a win in which would send the Majors to their first Connie Mack World Series. Coming into this season, the Majors had never advanced beyond the Connie Mack State Tournament.

Kinsey, the Majors’ Norman North graduate and Wichita State commit, should be recovered from an inflamed ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow in time for all of it.

Without Kinsey, the Majors have held opponents to fewer than seven runs in 31 of 36 games, and have shutout teams at the same rate.

Part of that is a slew of new talent. Stillwater’s Colton Bunney is 4-1 with a team-high 21 strikeouts, Hennessey’s Matt Mills is 4-0 with an 0.61 ERA and Perry’s Cooper Skluzacek, someone Majors coach Chris Jensen said he’d never heard of before this season, is 3-0 with a 1.58 ERA.

Another part is from closer to home.

Enid High senior-to-be Tanner Fore has gone from 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA during the Plainsmen’s spring season to 4-0 with 1.58 ERA.

“Our pitching staff this year is better than it was last year,” Kinsey said. “It’s not as dazzling; we don’t have guys throwing 94 this year. Our guys just know how to pitch better. I’m ecstatic that it’s as good as it is, and when I get back, it’s gonna get even better.”

Maybe quite a bit better.

Kinsey just wrapped up a 21-4 career at Norman North with a 10-1 senior campaign and 1.23 ERA, and in 9.2 innings with the Majors this year has struck out 12 batters. Kinsey said he’s a week or two away from being able to pitch five innings.

“We’re still easing him back into it,” said Jensen, the Majors’ head coach since 2010. “The games don’t really count until you get to the end, so there’s no reason to rush him back into it.”

Jensen said it’s tough to gauge whether that late-season addition would make 2014’s Majors the strongest in his tenure. Kinsey wasn’t as subtle.

“I think this is the best team we’ve had,” he said. “As a team, we’re all playing for each other. The team chemistry is better than it’s ever been, that’s the difference. It’s like a group of brothers. When we’re coming in and playing and trying to win, we’re doing for each other.”

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Enid News & Eagle sports photos from the month of February 2014. Enjoy all the ENE photos with full access at http://enidnews.smugmug.com.