The Edison baseball team is flying high after giving Claremore its first District 5A-4 losses Monday and Tuesday.
The Eagles (9-7, 3-4) still might not finish out of the bottom half of the district, but it’s a sign that things are working under second-year head coach Ty Gunter.
Claremore is a perennial contender while Edison hasn’t won more than 13 games in a season in at least six years, although the Eagles did reach a regional final in 2019.
“We’re trying to build a culture here where the kids compete every day,” said Gunter, a former Coweta High standout who played college baseball at Northeastern A&M and UALR.
“They’re starting to believe in themselves, and it’s fun to watch,” he said.
Against Claremore, the Eagles hung around until crunch time and then made all the key plays.
On Monday, they took advantage of walks and errors to score seven times in the sixth inning, and won 10-3. Liam Bellmard, a freshman, singled home the go-ahead run and Michael Merrill then singled home two more.
Back at Edison on Tuesday, the Zebras led 3-2 in the fifth and threatened to pad their lead, with two on and only one out. But Eagles third baseman Sam Buchert flagged a hot smash and threw to second baseman Sam Slagle, starting a 5-4-3 double play.
In the bottom of the fifth, Meggedo Janowski put the Eagles ahead with a three-run double and they went on to a 7-5 triumph.
Sophomore right-hander Trevor Turnbull went the distance Monday, scattering seven hits. On Tuesday, senior right-hander Hayden Lankie went five innings and sophomore Braden Hyams pitched the final six outs.
Gunter, in only his second coaching assignment, can draw on the experience of his father. Jeff Gunter resigned as Hilldale’s coach after the 2019 season to join his son in the Eagles’ dugout.
“I think about listening to things he’d say when I was growing up and now I find myself saying the same stuff,” Ty Gunter said. “It makes me stop and laugh.”
In the torrid zone
Edison held off the Zebras despite Noah Smallwood’s blazing bat.
The junior shortstop and leadoff hitter went 15-for-20 in a seven-game span and is the latest Tulsa World player of the week.
The surge includes seven doubles and three triples, raising Smallwood’s season average to .418. He was also 4-for-4 on stolen bases and scored 14 runs.
“It looks like batting practice right now,” he said. “It feels like nothing can go wrong. It’s fun trying to see how far and hard I can hit the ball.”
Against Edison on Monday, Smallwood went 3-for-3 with a single, double and triple. In the two games, he reached base on seven of eight plate appearances and scored five times.
Things weren’t this easy for him a few weeks ago. Coming off reconstructive knee surgery from football season, the Zebras’ starting quarterback struggled at the plate until leading off a 2-1 win at Booker T. Washington with a double.
“That was probably the best-hit ball I’ve had in a while,” he said. “It got to the fence in a hurry.”
Just in case
Baseball coaches have been ranking within each district as a precaution against coronavirus cancellations creating as much chaos in the standings as they did in football last fall.
But those rankings likely won’t be needed, OSSAA baseball chairman Grant Gower said. First, baseball affords greater rescheduling flexibility than football does. Second, Gower said, he hasn’t seen more than a few baseball cancellations due to the virus.
Doing it all
Thomas Brownfield pitched a no-hitter in Class A No. 11 Dewar’s 3-0 win over Eufaula in the semifinals of the Dragons’ Gumbo Classic and was named tournament MVP.
Also a middle infielder, he started two double plays in the tournament, had six hits and scored eight runs.
Lincoln Christian shortstop Max Brown batted .430 during the week with a triple, three home runs and 11 RBIs. Devin Qualls batted .615 with three doubles and two homers.