The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

March 20, 2013

Lumps taken, Enid's Chavez back on track

ENID, Okla. — First-year Plainsman Jonny Chavez shined and stymied the opposition on the mound Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Broncos, finding a stride that had so far eluded the prized prospect.

Chavez pitched five innings in a junior varsity game against the home-schooled Broncos — the same team and pitcher that beat the Plainsman varsity squad 9-8 in the season-opening On The Border Tournament in Fort Smith, Ark. — limiting them to five hits and one earned run, striking out four in an 11-3 win.

The performance broke a streak of forgettable play that continued all the way up to Tuesday’s early game for the highly touted freshman. Chavez had four errors in two games against Union last Friday to start his career as a varsity starter, and the Plainsmen lost both.

“I was nervous,” Chavez said. “My first game starting varsity, I was scared out of my mind. Everyone kept telling me to relax, but I just let it get to me too much.”

Even after his slow start, the consensus on Chavez is more or less universal.

“He’s pretty big,” said Enid coach Bill Mayberry, who first saw the now 6 -foot, 175-pound Plainsmen as a seventh-grader. “He runs fast, he’s strong.”

Chavez hasn’t developed the skill to utilize all that athleticism yet. He’s hitless with four strikeouts and a walk in six plate appearances and has seen more than six pitches just once.

In the field, he has a strong arm and his frame provides the range to glide to ground balls that might otherwise be out of reach, but Chavez’s fielding percentage is stuck at .571.

“There are things that you’ll struggle at,” Mayberry said. “(On Tuesday), it was a Jekyll-and-Hyde situation for Jonny. In the first game, he caught, and had a bad day, and then he comes out and pitches in the second game and turns in a wonderful performance … That’s how it’s going to be.”

“I was kind of skeptical at first,” said Enid junior Cole Floyd, who has hit one of the Plainsmen’s two home runs this season. “But after seeing him on the mound (Tuesday) and seeing what he can do, I’m impressed. I think next year, he’s going to be a big part of our pitching staff.”

With a team ERA of 8.01, the Plainsmen could use the help when Chavez, who tops 80 mph with a four-seam fastball and is working on a circle changeup, develops enough on the mound to pitch against varsity hitters.

“From what everyone’s telling me, and the person I am, I think I can go a long way,” he said. “But it all depends on my choices where it will get me, my hard work. Hopefully it pays off.”

Chavez, the only Plainsmen freshman to start a varsity game this season, is the youngest of a promising youth movement for the 3-7 Plainsmen. Sophomores Tanner Fore (19) and Hunter Childs (18) are fifth and sixth in plate appearances on the team. Childs is batting .375, good for third among players with at least 10 at-bats, and Fore’s three RBI are tied for second. In seven chances, fellow sophomore Tanner Black has two hits and a walk. In all, seven underclassmen have played in varsity games this season.

“That whole climate is established by the senior leadership that lets that happen,” Mayberry said. “It’s not coaching that lets that happen because I’m not in there in the locker room with them every minute of the day. It’s that upperclassman patting them on  his back and saying, ‘Let’s go,’ as they come out the door. That’s what lends the confidence for a youngster to perform.”

Enid plays in the Edmond Memorial Baseball Festival through this weekend, starting at noon today against Heritage Hall (0-8, unranked in 4A). The Plainsmen return to David Allen Memorial Ballpark Monday to host U.S. Grant at 6 p.m., Monday. Today’s game can be heard on KCRC  (1390 AM),

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