By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Again, the ball field at Chisholm High School needed work after an unseasonable uproar or winter weather, but again, the Longhorns were there to patch where needed.
“It’s been a rough spring,” said Longhorns coach Jake Lenherr as the finishing touches were made to prep the field at Wednesday’s practice.
For weather maybe. Every-thing else during Chisholm’s baseball season has been just fine.
After pushing heavily favored Kingfisher to a third game in the district round last season, the Class 3A No. 13 Longhorns (22-5) expect to do more than challenge in the same round against Newkirk on Thursday.
“This year, every kid out here is expecting to win,” Lenherr said. “It’s a good feeling coming to practice and the kids are excited to be here and locked in. During catch, there was no talking, and you could tell they were taking it serious. That’s pretty cool as a coach when you know that they’re getting excited and they know what’s at stake.”
Ace Tabor Charles (5-0) will start the opener at 5:30 p.m., followed by Dylan Stegeman (4-3) in the nightcap. Wins for both would propel Chisholm to the regional round.
“There’s a bit more pressure, but I think we can handle it,” said Charles who has struck out a team-high 50 batters against 12 walks.
In his second year coaching the Longhorns, Lenherr has led the team from a postseason afterthought to serious contender and a 34-21 record.
But the second season of the Chisholm turnaround will be his last.
Lenherr will move back to his native Kansas after year’s end to take a position that will allow him more time with his wife and 1-year-old daughter.
The revelation, made early this season when Lenherr explained to his team that he’d be leaving, shortened the timetable for Chisholm’s plans at a state tournament run.
When Lenherr’s baseball career ends — the 29-year-old said his first head-coaching post likely will be his last — the players he coached would rather he not leave empty-handed, more specifically without a ring on one of them.
“These are good enough kids that I think they just took it as a ‘last hurrah’ type deal, especially the seniors,” Lenherr said.
“I know a lot of our goals are to get him a ring,” said Garron Nixon, the Longhorns’ leader in batting average (.477), home runs (5) and RBI (39). “Not only do we want a ring, but we want to get him a ring. If this is his last year, we want to make sure he remembers it.”
Chisholm beat unranked Newkirk 13-0 in the teams’ only meeting of the season, March 21 at the Perry Invitational Tournament. The Longhorns enter Friday’s set, which would extend to a third game in the best-of-three set if the teams split on Thursday, winners of eight straight.