MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

April 17, 2014

Ironheads on the rise after down spell

By Ronn Rowland

Phoenix Sports Writer

 

The Eufaula Ironheads feel they are back where they belong — in position to return to the state baseball tournament for the first time since 2011 ended a four-year run.

Last season, the Ironheads ended the year at 13-14 after losing in the regional semifinals. This year, the Ironheads are 17-3 and ranked No. 7 in Class 3A.

Second-year coach Victor Paden is quick to point out that it’s it’s a team effort.

“Basically all of them,” Paden said. “They’re hitting better than I could have imagined. We struggled over the weekend minus two of our starters. When you’re out two starters, it hurts.”

The leader on the mound is Trey Moore (9-0), who is coming off an 8-0 shutout of Sequoyah on Tuesday. Moore said this season is much more to his liking compared with the previous two years.

“We’ve been practicing hard every day,” Moore said. “We keep telling ourselves that our goal is to be at state tournament at the end of the year.”

Colin Walch, the third of three Walch brothers who have been part of a four-year state run, is hitting a team-best .640. Ronnie Hallum is behind him at .470.

Moore, who is hitting .425, is quick to point out the youth on last year’s team is one factor for the Ironheads treading water in 2013.

“We didn’t have much experience on the field,” Moore said. “This year, we’re older and we’re more experienced than we were last year.”

Another of the players having a solid year on the mound is Dillon Larkin, who is 4-1 heading into the weekend. Larkin feels the team is doing the little things well and that's one reason for the success.

“Working hard in the offseason is one key to the success,” Larkin said. “We also have all our pitching back this season. And we are actually doing well throughout the entire lineup.”

Larkin also knows that the Ironheads’ display in the Coal Mining Classic last weekend was not an example of how the team is playing.

“That’s not where we want to be,” he said. “We are focusing on more practice on getting to regionals and hopefully to state.”

Moore believes Paden’s discipline has had a positive effect on the team.

“He’s a lot more strict this year than last year,” Moore said. “Last year he was getting to know us. In our practices this year, we do a lot more stuff than we did last year.”

Larkin agrees that the adjustment to the new coach took some time.

“It was a little bit different,” Larkin said. “But everybody is pretty much getting used to him. He’s almost the same as our previous coach.”

The Ironheads will get to see up close and personal just how good they really are this weekend at the Stilwell Tournament.

“This is going to be a tough field,” said second-year coach Victor Paden. “The funny thing is we turn around and play Sequoyah again and they’ve got a good lefty and beat some good teams. If we get past them, we face Stilwell then we play NOAH — it’s pool play.

“One the other side you have Kansas (No. 6 in 3A), there’s Vian who’s ranked fifth and you have Stigler who’s solid and Roland. You’re going to play good teams this weekend.”

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