After driving in two runs in the Enid Majors' 5-2 victory over Batters Box White Thursday, shortstop Gage Ninness was preparing for a two-hour drive home to Newcastle.
He might be getting home between 1 and 2 a.m. and was set to drive back Friday for a game with Sandlot Painter in the Connie Mack Regional Qualifier.
Ninness went 2 for 4 in a 6-1 win against Sandlot Painter to give the Majors a 3-0 record in the tournament. The Majors would clinch a spot in Sunday's championship round with a win.
But it's well-worth it for Ninness, who will be playing the next two seasons at David Allen Memorial Ballpark for the newly-crowned NJCAA Division II National Champion Northern Oklahoma College Enid Jets.
"Who wouldn't want to be playing here?,'' Ninness said.
Ninness was well-acquainted with the ballpark having played games there since he was 10 years old. He had played the previous few seasons with the Midwest Elite traveling team but chose to play with the Majors this summer.
"I've always dreamed of playing here,'' he said. "I love this place.''
That love was strengthened after watching the Jets beat Mesa, Ariz., 5-4 in the World Series championship game. He won't forget the estimated 4,000 fans who packed the ballpark to see the Jets win their first-ever national title.
"It was awesome,'' he said. "It was a cool atmosphere. I'm really happy to be going there.''
Ninness chose the Jets over Oklahoma Wesleyan. He committed and signed before the World Series.
"It's close to home and they believed in me and liked what they saw in me,'' he said. "I've always wanted to play here.''
NOC Enid assistant coach Scott Mansfield said Ninness "definitely fits the blueprint in what we look for players, no doubt.''
"We're excited to have him,'' Mansfield said. "He is an athletic kid who runs well, is aggressive and is a hard-nosed baseball player.''
Ninness wanted to go to a junior college where (1) he could gain experience and (2) have a chance to play at either the Division I or II level in two years.
"I felt it would be better for me to get some more reps,'' he said. "It was just a better opportunity for me to get to play.''
The Jets will be looking for a shortstop with the graduation of two-year starter D.J. Calvert. He is prepared to have to compete for a job.
"We'll see,'' he said. "It's college. There's going to be a good bunch of guys there. I'm going to go out and compete and try my hardest. There were seven people (in the recruiting class) who made All-State. It's a good group. We want to go back-to-back.''
The summer offers Ninness a chance to get to know some of those guys. He is one of five NOC Enid recruits on the roster joining Enid's Ambren Voitik, Sand Springs' Cale Savage, Deer Creek Edmond's Jordan Coffey and Kingfisher's Logan Rutledge.
He is developing chemistry with second baseman Voitik, who could be forming a double play combo with the Jets.
"It's good to get chemistry with the middle infielders,'' he said. "It's a fun thing to do. It's good to get to know everybody right now.''
Ninness earned Middle West All-State this spring after he hit .491 with 13 doubles, three triples, three homers and drove in 46 runs to lead the Racers to the Class 4A semifinals where they fell to eventual champion Harrah. He struck out only five times in 130 plate appearances.
"He has a good approach at the plate,'' Mansfield said. "He knows what to do at the plate and that makes for a good hitter. He should be a solid contributor for us.''
Ninness is confident of making the jump from 4A to junior college.
"I don't think it will be that big of an adjustment for me,'' said Ninness about the jump from 4A to junior college. "I have played this game for a long time and I know what goes into it. All the hard work prepared me for it.''
That hard work has made an impression on Majors coach Chris Jensen.
"I'm glad to have him,'' Jensen said. "He came highly recommended by the NOC coaches and that says a lot about him.''
Ninness has been closing some games for the Majors. He took a .375 batting average with six RBI, a triple and seven runs scored against the Sandlot Painter.
"He is doing a phenomenal job for us,'' Jensen said.
Ninness said his summer goals are "just to become a better hitter and get better mentally and just work on everything.''
"I feel like I'm doing all right,'' he said, "but I need to work on my fielding. I've had a couple of errors. My batting is all right but I need to keep working on things.''
Ninness had a hot bat in Enid's first two games of the qualifier. He was one of two with a triple and an RBI in a 7-0 win over the Oklahoma Expos on Wednesday. He was one for three with an RBI and run scored against Batters Box White.
"I like this tournament,'' he said. "It's real competitive. I never knew about it before. My parents can follow it on the radio. It's a good deal.''
Ninness' commuting has been made easier with high school teammate Jake Cox on the team. He is optimistic about the rest of the season.
"I've gotten to know I-35 well,'' he said with a smile. "Jake is a good teammate. This is a good group of guys. I love these guys. I think we have a chance to win it all this year.''
While Ninness has played on a high level, summer baseball is fun first.
"It's a lot more laid back because there's not too much on the line,'' he said. "It's good to get the reps in. This right here is good for me mentally.''