MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

May 23, 2013

The 2013 All-Phoenix baseball team: Hornet is MVP but 3A finalists lead number of area selections

By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor

— Hunter Harrison couldn’t stay away, even if his team did.

A little over a week ago, Harrison stood very near where the dogpile took place, a year removed from the one his team built their own. And this one was the team that watched he and the rest of his Hilldale Hornets.

Harrison doesn’t have a state title, but his senior season effort got the attention of members of the Phoenix staff who cover baseball and selected other writers along with area coaches, all of who voted him the All-Phoenix Most Valuable Player for 2013.

“I’m a little surprised. There’s so many good players that deserved this,” he said. “But I’d trade it for another dogpile at state anytime.”

Harrison was 10-3  on a team that went 18-11, with a 1.25 ERA with 91 strikeouts in 78 innings of work. Two of those losses were to 4A champion Berryhill and 6A champion Owasso. The other was against Miami, where he was a victim of four unearned runs in a  4-3 loss.

All this after a 2012 state tournament where he was the hero, winning both a quarterfinal and a four-hitter in beating the team he watched redeem itself days ago.

“We lost a lot of offense off that team (including 2012 MVP Jarrard Poteete, now a starter at Texas Tech) and I knew I had to step up and be a senior leader so I tried to step up my total game because of that.

And it got him a slight win over Rowdy Simon of Vian — in fact, four Wolverines made the team and three of those, including pitcher Shawn Troutman and shorstop Landon Decker — finished in the top five for MVP.

“Not shocked. A little surprised but not from a talent standpoint,” Hornets coach Darren Riddle said. “He didn’t get the chance at doing what he did last year (at state) but he was huge for us both on the mound and with the bat.”

Harrison, who signed with Connors State as a dual position player,  led the Hornets in hitting, batting .426 with 10 doubles, five triples and 31 RBIs. He also walked 31 times.

“I was more patient at bat,” Harrison said. “I’ve never come close to that many walks but it happened because I was willing to wait for my pitch.

“Those Vian guys, I’ve played together on tournament teams on. I have all the respect for them in the world and they had a great year.”

Those four Wolverines helped John Brockman win as an overwhelming choice for coach of the year, gaining all but one vote. Vian made the finals and lost to three-time 3A champion Verdigris, finishing 34-3.

“It always goes back to those young men and their teammates,” Brockman said. “They bought into what we were doing and coach (Albis, assistant coach) Ramos was a great help and part of this.

“I thought they thought they would win every game. I’ve never had a team in 19 years that was never rattled or nervous and that’s the way they approached every game and the highs and lows along the  way.”

Tristan Johnson was a consistent performer offensively, hitting .476 with 12 doubles, two triples and two home runs while playing third base for most of the year at Fort Gibson. The sophomore was voted Newcomer of the Year.

“I was proud of the way we finished,” he said. “Everything kind of came together for us and we were able to string together some wins. I just want to work on getting better next year.”

Simon was the top vote-getter in the outfield, a position he played for the first time this season, and Troutman second behind Harrison at pitcher. Oddly, Decker, though high in the MVP voting points, was a reserve on the team, finishing second behind Tim Smithson of Warner at shortstop. Rylee Simon was the top vote-getter at third, giving Vian twice as many selections as any other team.

The other selection on the mound was Stigler’s Seth Sandlin.

Checotah’s Caleb Knight was a slight winner over Oktaha’s Caleb Shoemake at catcher, though Shoemake also was the top vote-getter at designated hitter. Wagoner’s Wyat Grooms, the 2012 Newcomer of the Year, won out at first base and Gore’s Cole Keathley did the same at second. Other outfielders were Logan Lewis of Tahlequah and Logan Ohl of Gore.

Joining Decker as reserves were Muskogee’s Harris Jones, second in the voting at first base, and Sequoyah outfielders Kyle Helsley and Karter Woodruff.