For the Enid Plainsmen, summer is the time to build for the future with player development usually coming before wins and losses.
But two days into the Connie Mack state tournament, the Plainsmen are showing a win now attitude.
Enid beat OKC Sandlot Ballard — who has already qualified for the regional tournament next month — for the second time this season, 8-3 on Wednesday and pushed tournament favorite MVP Seng hard for six innings (3-0 with two unearned runs) before falling 8-0 on Thursday.
If the Plainsmen beat the OK Expos at 1:30 p.m. Friday and MVP beats the OKC Sandlot Ballard at 9 a.m., the Plainsmen would be assured of a berth in Saturday’s championship round. Even if Seng MVP loses, the Plainsmen would be in good shape with the tiebreaker — fewest runs allowed.
Seng MVP has allowed no runs. Sandlot Ballard has eight and the Plainsmen 11. However, once the three-way tie is broken, the second spot is determined by head-to-head which the Plainsmen would have over Sandlot Ballard.
“If we win tomorrow, we get a chance to play on Saturday,’’ said Enid coach Brad Gore. “That’s all you can ask for. If we can get there, we’ll get a chance to play on Sunday (in championship game). You just take them one at a time.’’
Enid starter Tyler Holland allowed only one earned run in the first six innings before tiring in the seventh. MVP Seng pitcher Racer Felber allowed only two hits over six innings and did not allow a runner past second. There might have been if a few ifs and buts had the Plainsmen not had two runners thrown out on the base paths.
“If we make one play (an error which led to two unearned runs in the first), it’s 1-0 going into the seventh,’’ Gore said. “That’s a team has a chance to go quite a ways in Connie Mack. We have been playing pretty good. Our expectations are getting higher and higher as we go. I was not surprised that Tyler did that or we played them that close for that long of time. We had a chance to score some runs, but we had some bad at-bats. Overall, the kids played hard.’’
The Plainsmen have had a solid work ethic in the summer, lifting weights in the mornings four days a week.
“All summer we have come out and played hard and learned the game,’’ Gore said. “I’m proud of the kids.’’
Blake Priest, the winning pitcher Wednesday, said the competitiveness of the game showed how far the team has come.
“We have come a long ways,’’ Priest said. “About two months ago, we would have lost 30-0 to that team. We weren’t intimidated.’’
Priest said Wednesday’s win proved the earlier win over OKC Ballard at last month’s regional qualifier wasn’t a fluke. His lone disappointment was he didn’t go the distance.
“It was a big win,’’ he said, “but I still have mechanics to work on. If I had thrown more strikes, I probably would have thrown the whole game.’’
Priest was developing into a varsity pitcher last spring. Holland is becoming that this summer shedding his JV label.
“He has thrown real well this summer,’’ Gore said. “He is showing that he can mix three pitches for strikes. He’s got a lot more confidence now. He still has some growing up to do, like all of them do, but I was real proud of him today.’’
Holland’s goal for the game had been to throw a complete game. He left in the seventh after giving up a single, a double and a walk. Gore said he probably should have taken him out sooner but was trying to save arms for the rest of the tournament.
“I was throwing the curve for a strike,’’ said Holland about the key to the game. “I have come pretty far this summer. I have been working pretty hard and I’ve been throwing a lot. This was a confidence builder for me. I see myself as a varsity pitcher now.’’
Holland’s goal for next spring with Enid High is “to be able to pitch in district games and for the team to be able to count on me.’’
Center fielder Will Fleece, the team’s lead-off hitter, agreed the Plainsmen have come a long ways physically and mentally.
“We expect to play well against good teams now,’’ he said. “We weren’t winning many games early, but we’re looking pretty good now. I think we showed the previous win over Sandlot Ballard was no fluke.’’
Fleece, who was 0-for-3 against MVP Seng, said he’s been pleased with his own progress this summer, but “I need to stay focus on mechanics.’’
Shortstop Maddux Mayberry said he and his teammates have grown up this summer. Enid has had to rely heavily on younger players with seniors-to-be Connor Gore, Colby Jarnigan and Titan Stephens not playing on the team this summer. Conner Gore is the regular shortstop for the Enid Majors.
“A few of us have had to become leaders because there was no one else there,’’ Mayberry said. “Without Conner, Colby and Titan, we had to step up. We have never been fazed against anyone this summer. We have just been trying to do our best. I definitely think that we will be just as good next spring as we were last year. We’re definitely where we need to be now. We’re always trying to get better.’’
Mayberry said the team’s biggest improvement has been hitting.
“I know I have been fixing a few things like getting the head (of the bat) to the barrel,’’ he said. “We just have to get better.We have been throwing strikes and playing good defense and we have come a long way on our hitting. We had some good at-bats today. We hit some balls hard on the ground.’’
Brad Gore said maturity has been the biggest step this summer.
“We have talked a lot about becoming better baseball players overall,’’ he said. “We’re much more mature when it comes to what we’re doing on the field. That’s the biggest step we have made. We’re working right now to not necessarily win state championships in the summer, but win them in the spring. We’re trying to develop our players to handle those situations in big 6A games. They are responding pretty well.’’
The Enid Majors run-ruled the Shockers Black late Thursday. They will face the Woodward Travelers at 8:15 p.m. Friday.
The Travelers improved to 2-0 in Pool A by shutting out the Shawnee Phillies, 10-0 on Thursday. The Phillies, who beat the Majors on Friday, will face the Shockers Black at 3:45 p.m. Friday.
If Woodward and the Phillies win Friday, they would finish 1-2 in the pool and the Majors would be out of the tournament.
If the Majors and Phillies win, it’s a three-way tie at 2-1. Woodward is in good shape for the tiebreaker there having allowed only three runs compared to nine for Enid (coming into Thursday) and 14 for the Phillies. If Woodward wins the tiebreaker, the Phillies would be second having beaten the Majors.
If the Majors win Friday and the Phillies lose, the Majors would finish first and Woodward second.