The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

May 8, 2013

Applegate, NOC Enid ready for regional

ENID, Okla. — How things have changed for Northern Oklahoma College Enid and Jets second baseman Dyce Applegate the past two weeks.

It was just eight games ago Applegate was hitting .247 for a 10-35 Jets team which had lost 15 of its last 18 and was mired in last place in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference race.

Since then, Applegate and the Jets have seen their fortunes change.

The NOC Enid second baseman has hit .381 (8 of 21) the last eight games, with five RBI to raise his average to .274. The Jets have won six of their last eight games to earn the No. 4 seed for the NJCAA Region 2 tournament,7 which begins today at Bartlesville.

NOC Enid faces Redlands (34-13) at noon today with ace Zach Postoak (5-5, 5.86 ERA) on the mound.

“We have been playing more together and more for each other,’’ Applegate said. “We have been getting good pitching and up and down the lineup we have been squaring up and getting on base and letting the guys behind them do their job. Once we put all three phases of the game together, we started to turn things around.’’

 The baseball Gods have been shining a little more on Applegate lately.

“I just wasn’t getting anything to fall,’’ he said about his struggles at the plate. “I’m getting some stuff to fall now. I hope that continues.’’

Applegate, who was a lead-off hitter at tradition-rich Berryhill High School, sees himself in a similar role as the No. 9-hole hitter.

“I see it as a double lead-off guy,’’ he said. “If I get on, the lead-off man moves me over. You get a few less at-bats, but that’s about it. I don’t have a problem with it. No matter where you’re hitting, your job is to get on and let your teammates do their job.’’

For Applegate, NOC Enid is a little bit of Berryhill West. He was a high school teammate of Postoak and Jets’ outfielder Adam Dolan. The adjustment to college ball wasn’t difficult because the two programs had similar philosophies.

“We played a lot of small ball and we stressed pitching,’’ he said. “Other than having to get used to different guys on the field, it hasn’t been that hard of an adjustment.’’

With Postoak on the mound, he said he knows he’s going to get a lot of ground balls, “which is what you like to get as an infielder.’’

“It’s been cool to play with those guys (Postoak and Dolan), it wasn’t the main reason I came here, but Postoak told me it was a good program with good coaches and good facilities,’’ Applegate said.

“The main thing was it wasn’t too far from home. My family could come to a lot of my games. My mom and dad are my biggest fans. I think my mom has missed only five or six games this year. It’s cool being this close to home and having them there.’’

What wasn’t cool was the losing. His Berryhill teams,which were accustomed to 30-win seasons, twice reached the state finals during Applegate’s career.

“That was rough, because I knew we had the potential,’’ he said. “We should have been playing the way we have been lately all year. We just haven’t been able to put things together.

“But we kept our heads together. Baseball is a game of luck. I felt at the beginning of the season, we didn’t have any luck. Every bad hop, every bad call went against us. We have started to have some luck and we’re a different ballclub.’’

That philosophy helped him through his hard times.

“Sometimes, you hit the ball hard and it’s right at somebody,’’ Applegate said. “That’s baseball. Some-times the soft ones will drop. If you keep swinging, it will eventually come. I’ve been seeing the ball well lately and I feel I’m doing my part.”

Applegate was more known for his glove than his bat. He’s disappointed about his 10 errors, but has helped turn 15 double plays.

“That’s a few more errors than I would like to have,’’ he said. “Some were pretty ugly. I feel like our pitchers should trust me that if he gets a ground ball, I’ll make the play. Fielding has always been the strong part of my game.’’

He attributes that to taking grounder after grounder from his father while growing up.

“I would rather take ground balls than hit,’’ he said.

But he doesn’t want to be known for just his fielding.

“I don’t take offense if people say my fielding is better than my hitting,’’ he said. “But I don’t want to be known as just a glove man. I expect to be good at the plate, too.’’

Applegate has made an instant connection with Braden Martin, who has taken over the shortstop job after missing most of the season with a rib injury.

“It’s been smooth all the way,’’ Applegate said.

Applegate has “too many pregame routines’’ to name. He never puts his glove in his bag, and before every game he spits out some bubble gum he’s been chewing. He puts a another piece back in before the game and chews that the rest of the game.

“There’s a lot of crazy stuff about baseball players that people never imagine,’’ Applegate said.

He was named after his father. The unusual name gets him some additional attention.

“A lot of people say they remember me because of my name,’’ Applegate said.

Applegate and the Jets went 1-3 against Redlands in the regular season. He said the good thing about the playoffs is everyone starts back at 0-0.

“We have gotten hot at the right time,’’ he said. “We felt like we gave them a couple of more games than we should have. If we play our game, we can handle Redlands.’’

He’s not nervous about the playoffs, thanks to a blue-chip baseball pedigree.

“I’ve played in two state championship games and I never got nervous before them,’’ he said. “I just try to be confident and trust myself and my teammates to play our game.’’

The NOC Enid-Redlands winner plays the Murray State-NOC Tonkawa winner at 3:30 p.m. Friday. The loser plays the Western-Carl Albert loser at 7 p.m. Friday.

The tournament runs through Sunday. The winner advances to the district tournament.

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