By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Enid senior and regular leadoff hitter Shaun Spring was confused when he was listed fourth in the batting order by Plainsmen assistant coach Chris Jensen before a March 26 game against U.S. Grant.
Spring, up to the task but unsure if a clerical error might have left the clean-up duties to a fleet-footed contact hitter, checked with Jensen. After all, the lineup card and defensive positioning had been in flux. Spring had already played four positions in the field, and only one of 21 varsity players hadn’t had at least one at bat.
“Shaun came up and told him, ‘I’m not going to hit any home runs in here,’” Enid coach Bill Mayberry recalled.
“You’re not there for that,” Jensen responded. “You’re there because of your on-base percentage.”
The approach worked. In two games hitting fourth, Spring — whose .490 on-base clip is good for second among Enid’s regulars — went three-for-three with two RBI, three runs, a stolen base and a walk.
Spring’s experience wasn’t uncommon on a constantly-shifting Enid team, which now is next scheduled to play Sand Springs at David Allen Memorial Ballpark on Friday after today’s scheduled game at No. 17 Edmond Memorial was canceled due to rain.
All the tinkering seemed more like a frantic search than a measured set of what Mayberry called “experiments” early in the season, when the Plainsmen averaged four errors a game and were barely hitting above .230 after 12 games, a stretch that netted Enid a 3-9 start.
But in the six games since?
Enid’s team average has jumped to .257, and the Plainsmen have fumbled a slightly better three errors per game. The Plainsmen have gone 4-2 along the way, securing upset wins against No. 9 Stillwater and No. 15 Putnam City North.
“We’re just a lot more motivated right now,” said catcher Christian Voitik, who has led the charge in offensive improvement with a team-high 15 hits and .575 slugging percentage. “We’re all coming together as a team. Obviously, we’re hitting a whole lot better, and our defense has done a ton better.”
The most recent beneficiary of the regular reorganization is sophomore Braden Rogers, who entered the beginning of the six-game stretch with five at bats on the season, but since has raced to a team-best .400 batting average, going 8-for-20 with five RBI, three stolen bases, three runs and two doubles since a March 26 win against U.S. Grant.
“It’s a lot happier than it was at the beginning,” Rogers said after Enid’s upset win against PC North at the Gladys Winters Tournament. “We just get more momentum each time we play. We’re farther along in the season, so it gets more intense each time.”
Rogers continues to struggle in the field, posting a worrisome .565 fielding percentage at third base and shortstop, but remains on the rise in the batting order, jumping from seldom-used, to eighth, to as high as fifth.
“Toward the beginning of the season, there was a lot less ‘care’, I guess you could say, on our team, but Bill, he started switching stuff up, and it kind of got a few people angry, but that got our butts into gear. We knew we had to fight for a spot. Everybody’s out there trying to win a spot.”
“Whether the experiments with lineups are threatening or not, it’s not the motive,” he said. “The experiments with lineups, which we’ve done over and over all through my career, is to try to prepare every team member for the battle at the end. We’re only as strong as our weakest link.”
“They’ve responded well,” he said. “But it’s not magic. It’s baseball.”
Enid is scheduled to return to David Allen Memorial Ballpark for the first half of a home-and-home set with 7th-ranked district 6A-4 foe Sand Springs (13-4) at 6 p.m. Friday.
Tonight’s game can be heard on KCRC (1390 AM).