Former Jenks assistant Jeremy Griffin has embarked on a facelift of the program at Muskogee — new uniforms, a new infield and warning track around the outfield wall, new bleachers and a new-look locker room. It’s also about instilling a new attitude in his players, who were 12-20 a year ago.
“The administration has been very supportive of these changes and the kids have seen how much everyone has bought in and they’ve followed suit,” he said.
Tyler Bowden has signed with Southern Arkansas as a pitcher. Ethan Barton, Harris Jones and Dakota Morse are returning infielders and Garrett Brown and Cody Floyd have have solidified themselves in the outfield and Trey Gatzman is behind the plate.
Griffin doesn’t want to accept simply being competitive, or, as was the case last year in multiple games, just avoiding a run-rule loss.
“I want these guys to have the mindset that they’re good enough to go win a state championship,” he said.
That’s half the battle.
Bulldogs coach James Henson, missing the middle of the defense thanks to graduation and that includes one of the area’s top pitchers in Justin Ferrell. But five starters are back and Wyat Grooms, last year’s Phoenix Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore, hit .390 and will take up some of that pitching slack, joining Bradley Green (7-3, 3.00 ERA) on the mound when not playing first base.
7. Fort Gibson
Fort Gibson opens with Hilldale on Friday and Tigers coach Randy Smith, who enters his 25th year with 741 wins, eighth all-time among Oklahoma baseball coaches, would like to see it pushed back — and not because he happens to be facing the defending champs.
Weather which looms as a threat to wipe out the opener is the reason.
“I’ve been on the board for the last seven years and every year I’ve proposed and it’s passed our (group) to move baseball two weeks back to try and help prevent these types of situations and the constant conflicts with basketball,” Smith said. “And it never gets passed at the top so I guess it never will.”
When they get going, the Tigers, 18-16 a year ago and missing state for the first time since 2007, are light on experience. Cody Beaver, his top returning infielder, transferred to Metro Christian. Smith is hoping Ned Adair, who was second on the team in hitting, will be out after basketball.
Smith will rely on his pitching to lead the effort. Eric Hudson (4-2, 1.70 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 49 innings) is the expected ace. Adair was (4-4, 1.20) also brings some mound experience.
“We’ve got some other kids (Colton Dorris, Tristan Johnson) who can throw but we won’t be like we have been in past years where we’re four-deep in starters. It’s guys who can be good but they’ll throw a few innings at a time,” Smith said.