NOC Enid ace Garrett Kelly said he was going to treat defending national champion Western Oklahoma as just another opponent Thursday at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.
Kelly lived up to his word as he and Travis Lance combined for a five-hit shutout in a 1-0 Jets victory giving NOC Enid a split of the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference doubleheader. It was only the second time this season the Pioneers had been shut out.
Western scored three runs in the first and second on the strength of home runs by Elvis Rodriguez and Cesar Figuereo to win the opener, 7-2.
The split kept NOC Enid two games behind Western for second in the conference. The Jets are 4-6 in conference and 30-16 overall. WOC is 7-3 and 25-9.
Kelly struck out three and walked one behind a defense which did not commit an error in winning a pitcher’s duel with the Pioneers’ Skyluar Neal, who allowed only four hitters.
“I went out there and threw strikes and let my defense make plays behind me,’’ Kelly said. “I just approached it as just another game. This was a huge win for us in conference.’’
Lance was called upon in the top of the seventh with two outs and runners on first and third. He got Hazael Wessin to ground out to end the game.
“I would have loved to have gone the whole game, but I trust coach (Raydon) Leaton,’’ Kelly said. “Coach felt like he needed to bring in a different angle. Travis is a great closer and did exactly what we needed to do.’’
“I would have loved to have seen Garrett finish but you have to do what’s best for the team,’’ Leaton said. “The guy coming up was a good matchup for Travis.’’
J.R. Head gave Kelly all the support he would need in the first. He opened the game with a double, went to third on a ground out by Brandon Ruiz and scored on Logan Bradley’s single.
“That gave us a lot of confidence to start the game,’’ Kelly said.
Kelly picked up his confidence after allowing two hits in the first. He didn’t allow another hit until a single by Marty Dunlap in the sixth. The Pioneers didn’t get a runner past first until the seventh.
“It’s better when you’re pitching a tight game,’’ Kelly said. “You have to stay focused and you have to throw strikes to keep your team in it. It will hurt you if you get behind in the count.’’
Kelly was able to stay ahead of the frustrated Pioneers hitters.
“God blessed me today because I was able to throw all of my pitches for strikes,’’ Kelly said. “I was able to throw different speeds and keep them off-balance. I don’t throw my fastball too hard, but I was able to sneak it in there a couple of times.’’
He felt good coming out of the bullpen. He said he benefited from seeing Jets relievers retire WOC hitters on curves and offspeed stuff in the first game.
“I approach every game like I have a chance for a shutout,’’ Kelly said. “I was going to find a way to win it. Both of us (Neal and Kelly) were in the groove and got in a rhythm. It was fun to pitch.’’
Eleven of his 20 outs were on pop flys or flyouts.
“Against any team if you stay out of the middle of the plate and work both halves of it, you’re going to have success,’’ Leaton said. “He did that.’’
WESTERN 7, NOC ENID 2
The good news was the NOC Enid bullpen allowed only two hits and one run the last five innings.
The bad news was the Pioneers had seven hits in scoring six runs in the first two innings. Rodriguez and Figuero had homers in the first. Michael Cruz, had three hits, and a two-RBI double in the second.
Head and Brandon Cruz were both two-for-three for the Jets. Cruz’s triple scored Christian Faulkner in the fourth. Head, who singled and stole second, scored on a fielder’s choice by Bradley in the sixth.
Western starter Erlin Santos allowed only five hits in going the distance.
Head had a spectacular game defensively, making a diving catch to rob Dunlap of an extra base hit in the fourth. Cruz, the next batter, singled but Head threw out Wessin trying to score from second with a perfect strike to the plate.
“The plays that deserve oohs and aahs, J.R. makes those plays look routine,’’ Leaton said. “When he wakes up, his motor is at full speed.’’
The two teams play a doubleheader Sunday in Altus. Faulkner must sit out the first game after being ejected in the second game.
“You guys hyped this up more than we did,’’ Leaton said. “We treat every game as an important game. We don’t care what color is on the other side, we just play to win. Every win is a good win.’’
WESTERN 7, NOC ENID 2
WESTERN 330 010 0 — 7 9 0
NOC ENID 000 101 0 — 2 5 1
WP — Rosario, 7 I, 5 hits, 3 strikeouts, 2 walks. LP — Jo. Johnson, 2 I, 7 hits, 6 runs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout. Western — Paula, 1-for-2, 2 runs scored; M. Cruz, 3-for-4, double, 2 RBI; Rodriguez, home run; 2 runs scored; Figuero, 2-for-4, home run and double. NOC Enid — Head, 2-for-3, run scored, stolen base; B. Ruiz, 2-for-3, triple, double, RBI.
NOC ENID 1, WESTERN 0
NOC ENID 100 000 0 — 1 4 0
WESTERN 000 000 0 — 0 5 0
WP — Kelly, 62⁄3 innings, 5 hits, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk. LP — Neal, 6 IP, 4 hits, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, I HBP. Save - Lance 1⁄3 I, no hits. NOC Enid — Head, 2-for-3, 2 doubles, run scored; L. Bradley, 1-for-3, RBI.