The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

April 23, 2014

Mustangs right, right on time

WAUKOMIS, Okla. — The Pioneer Mustangs have picked up another injury.

Coach David Riesen will wear a walking boot on his right foot for two weeks, the treatment for a pulled calf muscle during the Merrifield Office Plus Invitational.

Fortunately for the Class A No. 5 Mustangs, their baseball coach is almost the only one out of commission, a welcome change after a successful, but injury-dogged regular season, and just in time for Pioneer (30-4) to host Garber and Frontier in a district-round tournament today.

Both Colby Koontz and Blake Gabriel made their returns to an already-humming pitching staff during last week’s Merrifield Invitational, joining a group that has posted a tidy 1.77 earned-run average. Both still are limited — Koontz has had consistent at-bats all season (.355 batting average, 29 RBI), but remains on a strict innings pitched limit after undergoing ligament replacement surgery as a freshman, and Gabriel put his own output at 70 percent after an early-season shoulder injury.

But their re-entries make the Mustangs’ lineup the healthiest its been since their season opener, the interim dotted with dings to Koontz and Gabriel as well as catcher Patrick Williams (head), pitcher Skyler Bartel (knee)  and infielder Brandon McNaughton, who missed the end of last season with a broken hand, won’t return this season with a back injury.

So, a season after Pioneer’s three-year state-tournament streak ended in a regional final loss to Cashion, the Mustangs seem to think they’re more prepared for the postseason, and not just on the injury front.

“We’re playing more focused,” said junior pitcher Austin Rogers. “Last year, we weren’t focused all the time. … It didn’t seem like we cared as much last year. We wanted it, but it feels a lot different this year.”

“Last year, I don’t feel like as much a team as we are right now,” said outfielder Carter Postier. “If we play to our capabilities, then we definitely can get back to state.”

Riesen said he planned to start Rogers (7-0) and Bartel (6-1) on the first day, but he didn’t know yet in what order. Garber (1-16) and Frontier (7-13) play at 2 p.m. today, and the Mustangs will follow with a 4 p.m. game against the loser in the opener and a 6 p.m. game against the first game’s winner.

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