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Eagles return to diamond: Scrimmage marks first competition since 2001

Monday, October 1, 2007  
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By Stefanie Trent

The Oklahoma Christian University baseball team saw its first competitive action in six years when they scrimmaged Northern Oklahoma College in Enid. Last Friday, Josh Balch grounded out on the first pitch he saw.

With one swing of the bat, the baseball program had unofficially returned.

“Playing Friday night at Northern just shows that everything is coming together,” infielder Andrew Everson said. “It’s an awesome feeling to finally get out there and play and know that we’re a small step in getting this program back on track where it needs to be.”

Oklahoma Christian discontinued its baseball program in 2001. Last year, Everson and three other players came to Oklahoma Christian to join head coach Chuck White in reviving the program. For those four players, being back on the field and competing has been a long time coming.

“It’s been tough,” Everson said. “But when I saw everybody for the first time when we had practice it kind of clicked. It’s here now and it’s go time. We had to start somewhere and I just look forward to that first game in February.”

The Eagles roster now consists of 35 players made up mostly of freshman. White did add some junior college transfers, but overall the Eagles will field an inexperienced lineup.

“We just want to get this program back to its years of dominance,” Everson said. “We want people to look at the Oklahoma Christian baseball program and see a bunch of players who are going to do what they need to do on and off the field.”

In the scrimmage with Northern Oklahoma, the Eagles played three games of seven innings back-to-back. If they had been keeping score, Oklahoma Christian would have lost the first game 4-2, won the second game 6-4, and tied the third game 3-3.

“We got good pitching from Tyler Sutton, David James, Derek James, Ryan Morris, Connor Williams, and Jeff Davis,” White said. “Overall, I thought that we were encouraged by some of the things we saw in the scrimmage. We are still going to work hard.”

Sutton pitched the first two innings for the Eagles and nearly tossed two perfect frames. The transfer from Millington, Tenn. allowed a single walk in his second inning of work.

Balch didn’t just go down as recording the first out in Oklahoma Christian’s return to the diamond. He also recorded the first home run for the Eagles when he took a third inning pitch over the left field wall. Tyler Gipson also hit a home run in the scrimmage.

White also said the Eagles needed to work on a few areas. He said they missed too many signals and the pitchers walked too many hitters.

Defensively, White said they made some mistakes in the field but he believes those will be eliminated as the players adapt to the speed of the college game.

With Oklahoma Christian’s new baseball field under construction, the Eagles have been practicing at the baseball field at Edmond Santa Fe High School.

Even with 35 new players competing for playing time and with a lack of facilities, team morale has been good.

“We’re getting closer,” Everson said. “We’re all getting together nicely and bonding real well in terms of the way we play with each other on the field. We’re always having a good time in practices.

“We’re working hard out there but we’re out there having a good time and that’s the way it should be playing this game.”

The Eagles have a second scrimmage in two weeks. Their first official game will be at Oklahoma Christian on Feb. 8 against Peru State University (Neb.).

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