A look at Broken Arrow’s regional line scores gives a quick indication of the Tigers’ strength – pitching and defense.
It’s not like the Tigers swing rubber bats, after all they did plate 27 runs in their three games last Thursday and Friday. But when you see an opponents’ sum of two runs and 11 hits along with just Tiger one error, then one could substitute an age-old football adage – “defense wins championships” – when talking about the state-tournament bound Tigers.
“That’s what we thought going in (to regionals) is that one, we were going to be able to play outstanding defense, and two, we felt like with those front line guys we were going to throw strikes and not walk a lot of people,” said BA head coach Shannon Dobson.” We hope those tendencies stay there throughout the end of the state tournament.”
The Tigers play Westmoore at 6:30 p.m., Thursday at Oral Roberts University’s J.L. Johnson Stadium in the first round of the OSSAA Class 6A State Baseball Championships. The Jaguars beat Broken Arrow, 8-2, in last year’s semifinal.
“It’ll be a tough test,” Dobson said. “In my mind, they are the best team out there on the west side.”
Riding an eight-game winning streak that includes a two-game sweep of Jenks and an 8-2 Battle of the Bats victory at Owasso, the Tigers are the hottest team from the East. Both Jenks and Owasso are in the state tournament.
“We’ve been clicking on all cylinders, lately,” Dobson said. “We’ve been pitching well and getting some timely hitting. Those are always recipes for success when you get to this time.”
The Tigers will call on Trey Wolf, who has not given up a run in his last three outings, on Thursday. After Kohl Franklin fractured his foot when he fouled a ball off his foot in BA’s second game of the season, Wolf and fellow senior Brett Biggs, took on an even bigger role as pitching tone setters and team leaders. Franklin, by the way, has returned from injury and recorded 13 strike outs in winning the final game of regionals.
“Both guys came into the program trying to prove themselves,” Dobson said of Biggs and Wolf. “They were guys who were going to have to work at it to get time on the field, not guys who could just walk in and play. From day one their freshman year, they just took off.
“I can’t think of two guys who have exhibited what our program is about then those two guys.”
The two pitchers, who said they have become “best friends” over the last few years, agreed with their coach’s assessment.
“My freshman year I was probably about five-six, 250,” Wolf said. “Probably shouldn’t even made the team. Now, I’m going to a good school (ORU) next year.”
Wolf then chided his buddy.
“You were about a buck-30 freshman year. But you have gained about 50-60 pounds. You’ve gained a lot of velo too,” throwing in baseball jargon for velocity.
Biggs returned the compliment.
“His biggest thing is he gained about six miles an hour in just one year, so he can blow balls by guys right now,” he said of Wolf.
Weight training, exercise and a better diet led to successful senior seasons and college scholarships – Biggs to Cowley County Community College in Kansas and Wolf to ORU, where he will start Game One Thursday night. But it’s the practice and in-game dialog the two share that have helped them fine tune their craft.
“We’re each other’s catch partners. If we’re working on a changeup or two-seam we can tell if it’s working or not and make suggestions,” Biggs said.
When it comes to a certain pitch, Wolf admitted that he strives to emulate his good friend.
“I would say he’s helped me a lot with my changeup because last year I didn’t have a good one and this year it’s starting to get better,” Wolf said. “He’s always had a good changeup. So every time I play catch with him, and he throws his changeup, I try to figure out what I need to do different to make mine just as good as his.”
Focus on “how were going to attack the next couple of guys coming up,” analyzing opponent at bats and looking at pitch counts are the makeup of in-game conversations.
While physically, no one would mistake Biggs or Wolf for the other Dobson says the two are similar in their approach to pitching.
“They’re both strike throwers,” the coach said. “They are going to pound the zone and make the defense work. They are not going to pitch themselves into any trouble. They are going to give you a chance to win.”
To that point, Wolf has walked just 11 batters all season. That is less than one a game. Biggs has walked just 12 hitters. Wolf’s 106 strikeouts leads the team, while Biggs has a team-best 1.31 ERA. Biggs also has a team-high eight wins. Wolf has six wins and a 2.29 ERA.
When looking at the two players’ recent pitching success – Biggs has won his last five decisions and Wolf has allowed just three earned runs in his last six starts – both shift focus and credit to the defense behind them and in front of them.
“I would say we have the best defense in the state,” Wolf bragged on his teammates. “Our shortstop, Bitty (Mack Chambers), makes a lot of tremendous plays. Tucker (Dunlap), he’s a great catcher. I never have to shake him off very much. Our outfield is stacked. Manny (Duran), our third baseman, he really stepped it up this year.”
Biggs chimed in.
“Tucker, he makes us look a lot better than we are on the mound,” he said. “If a ball is put in play, it’s going to be caught by one of our guys. So that makes it nice. We just have to do our job and we know that everyone is going to do their job behind us.”