By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Rose State’s Joe Black made a triumphant return to David Allen Memorial Ballpark Saturday.
The former Plainsman scored twice in the Raiders’ 3-2 and 9-2 doubleheader sweep of the hometown Northern Oklahoma College Enid Jets.
“We needed some wins,’’ Black said. “We’re going to start our conference season soon.’’
The two wins just added to an happy day where he was playing in front of family and friends again. Old family friend Todd Hook drove down from Wichita to see the games.
“It’s always good to see family and friends,’’ Black said while greeting his grandparents. “I get a lot of support from them.’’
He always looks forward to the trip home, and playing against the team he rooted for while growing up.
“It was a lot of fun watching them play, and then playing against them,’’ Black said. “I hang with these guys, and beating them is always a goal.
“I have a lot of good memories in this ballpark. This is my favorite team to play, even though it’s not in the (Bi-State) conference. I just like to go home.’’
He was recruited by NOC Enid out of Enid High two years ago, but chose to play for coach Koty Cooper at the Midwest City facility.
“I felt it was the right choice for me,’’ he said. “I thought it was the right place for me to elevate my game to the fullest.’’
He has definitely elevated his game from his freshman year, when he batted .269 with six doubles.
Black came into Saturday’s doubleheader hitting .453. That dropped a little after he went 2-for-8 overall in the two games.
He has 26 hits in 61 at bats for a still- impressive .426 average with 16 RBI and two doubles. He has scored 15 runs and struck out only five times.
“The coaches have helped me out so much offensively and defensively,’’ Black said. “They have made me a much better player.’’
The biggest improvement he made was in his mental approach.
“When you make it to college, you have your mechanics figured out by your freshman year,’’ he said. “These guys (Rose State coaches) know the mental aspects of the game well. That’s helped me more than anything.’’
Black has gone from the No. 9 to the lead-off spot.
“Whether you hit, your job is to get on base,’’ Black said, “but you see a lot tougher pitching in the lead-off spot ... a lot more breaking balls. It’s a little tougher, but it’s nothing that I can’t handle.’’
He is a more mature hitter this season.
“I feel a lot more comfortable this year,’’ Black said. “It’s whole another world from your freshmen to your sophomore year. The game has slowed down a lot.
“I’ve been seeing the ball well and taking good pitches to hit. Today, I got out of my comfort zone a little and chased some pitches and tried to make things happen, instead of letting it happen by itself.’’
Black didn’t think he put any additional pressure on himself being back home.
“There’s always a little more pressure when you’re playing in front of family and friends, but not that much really,’’ he said. “I just didn’t have a good day.’’
Black likes being in a take-charge role as the lead-off hitter. He had an RBI and scored a run when the Raiders scored six runs in the sixth to blow the second game open.
“When I get on, we score runs,’’ he said. “When I don’t, we struggle some.’’
“He’s been a good spark for us,’’ Cooper said. “He’s been real hot at the plate lately.’’
Black’s consistency is his biggest asset, Cooper said.
“He’s a lot more consistent than when he was a freshman,’’ Cooper said. “He’s handling the bat and laying down bunts better than when he was a freshman.’’
Black played on Enid High’s last state tournament team in 2009 as a sophomore.
“I just remember a lot of people helping me out here,’’ he said. “I can’t put my finger on one (favorite) moment. I remember watching John Dillingham and Tobin Mateychick and those guys ... it was a lot of fun.’’
His dad, Ron, who took EHS to two state tournaments (1979 and 1981) was watching him Saturday. The younger Black smiles when asked if he’s heard many stories about his father.
“A couple of ones that they will tell me,’’ he said.
Black’s focus is on the upcoming Bi-State Conference schedule. He was disappointed the Raiders fell short of the conference title last year.
“We got to win conference,’’ he said. “We should have done it last year.’’
Teammate Garrett Crain has signed with TCU. Black has talked with some four-year colleges about next year.
“I’m looking at a few here and there, but it’s still early,’’ he said. “I’m going to wait it out and see who will call. We had a lot of good players last year not sign until May or August. We’ll see what happens.’’
For the time being, he’s enjoying Rose State, where baseball is the lone men’s sport on campus.
“That’s fun,’’ he said. “The guys make it the most fun. We have a bunch of good guys. Everybody hangs out with everybody else.’’