Fort Gibson, Oktaha head All-Phoenix baseball squad

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  • Gary Edwards
    Canadian ice hockey player

May 27—Weston Rouse remembers how far away he was from where he needed to be, and what got him to where he is now.

"When I got here my freshman year, I couldn't do five push-ups," said the Fort Gibson sophomore southpaw and this year's All-Phoenix Baseball Most Valuable Player, as selected by the sports department. "We worked out in the mornings at 6 and that helped me so much."

That it did.

He was 9-1, arguably an ace on a deep and talented staff, with 18 walks, 88 strikeouts and an 0.91 ERA, hit .371 in 89 at bats with 36 RBIs with an on-base percentage of .557 and slugging percentage of .465.

All as a sophomore.

"Weston has grown up a lot this year," said his coach, Gary Edwards. "Last year he didn't have hardly any at-bats at all (due to the pandemic-shortened season) and was one of the better hitters on our ball club this year. It's kind of a tribute to the work he's put in the off-season — weight-lifting, pitching and everything.

"He loves the game and it shows when he comes out the park. He doesn't take a day off playing, practicing, or anything we do."

Curt Dixon, the Tigers' pitching coach, said Rouse's use of the entire plate became more defined this season.

"Last year he was really just pitching to half the plate with a fastball change-up mix," Dixon said. "His leverage he has is so good and being left-handed, it was about getting him on time, which is common being 6-foot-5 and growing and still trying to gain strength.

"Getting him throwing to his glove side was huge. When you do that, you're getting out in front and getting the breaking ball to go with it. So he's turned himself into a three-pitch pitcher working both sides and getting on time with his pitches and making sure his arm isn't getting stuck behind him."

Rouse said the overall coaching approach has helped his bat come around.

"It's the approach that we have at the plate," Rouse said. "You don't just try to spin off and pull everything. It helps you stay up the middle and focused on hitting the ball hard."

Dixon said one objective he has moving forward in Rouse's development is shrinking the difference between his breaking ball and his fastball from 15 mph to around 10 mph.

"He wasn't as gifted mid 80s as some 6-5 guys are," Dixon said. "He's gained that over time but now he's pitching with it and he'll continue to develop as a pitcher and not as a thrower.

"Tightening that gap may take some depth from his breaking pitch, but it'll tighten up and stay on his fastball longer."

Edwards, whose team went 33-4 and reached the 4A semifinals in Fort Gibson's first state trip in 10 seasons, was selected as Coach of the Year. The Tigers were a controversial reversed call on a home-plate force from moving on to the finals.

"I've gotten awards over time, but to me it's always about the kids who play their tail off and I'm not one to think they do it for me. They do it because they want to win and they do it for their teammates and with their teammates," he said.

"When I look back over the teams I've had, this is one of the closest bunch of boys I've had. Before they go on the field the thing they say is 'family.' And they believe it. They're like brothers in the clubhouse and that makes them play hard for each other."

The Tigers had two other selections to the team — Grant Edwards played second base when the junior didn't pitch and was selected as the starter there. He was .404 at the plate with 22 RBIs and 40 stolen bases and had a .990 fielding percentage in 96 chances. He was 9-1 as well on the mound with a 1.49 ERA. Wyatt Pierce hit .366 as a freshman outfielder and had a .957 fielding percentage.

Oktaha, which made the 2A semifinals, had junior pitcher Jakob Blackwell, (0.73 ERA in 67 innings, 96 strikeouts) as one of six selections overall. He was joined on the pitching staff by Hilldale junior Kielton Siedlik (9-2, 2.08 ERA with 91 strikeouts), Wagoner senior Chase Nanni (0.72 ERA, 59 strikeouts) and Haskell sophomore Brannon Westmoreland (6-1, 0.47 ERA with 54 strikeouts).

Joining Edwards as infield starters are Oktaha first baseman Brody Surmont (.391 BA, 13 doubles, .962 fielding), Eufaula sophomore Luke Adcock (.429 batting average, .887 fielding) at shortstop and Checotah junior Brock Butler (.500 BA, .880 fielding) at third. Catching is Oktaha junior Tucker Christian (.377, .996 fielding, throwing out eight of 31 attempting to steal and picking off four).

Wagoner senior Darius McNack, who played first baseman for the Bulldogs, was inserted as the designated hitter with a .400 average and 43 RBIs to go with four home runs. In the outfield is Oktaha junior Mason Ledford (.367 batting, .980 fielding), junior James wilson (.363 batting, 1.000 fielding ) and Pierce.

Reserves selected were Wagoner senior second baseman Bristo Love (.386, 10 doubles), juniors Landon Swallow of Warner and Fernando Gonzales of Haskell, who hit .512 and .488, respectively, Oktaha sophomore second baseman Hunter Dearman (.360, six home runs), Porter senior first baseman Cole Phillips (.402 batting, .927 fielding) and Hilldale junior shortstop Evan Smith (.393, .854).

Warner freshman catcher Jace Jackson (.444) was selected as Newcomer of the Year.

THE SQUAD BY THE NUMBERS

MVP:

Weston Rouse, Fort Gibson, So.

.371 in 89 at-bats, 1,022 on-base plus slugging percentage, 6 2Bs, 1 3B, 36 RBIs, 11 stolen bases,895 fielding percentage.

9-1 record in 54 innings, 22 hits, 16 walks, 88 strikeouts, 0.91 ERA.

Coach: Gary Edwards, Fort Gibson

Fort Gibson's first state appearance in 10 years, reached 4A semis, lost in "controversial" semifinal and finished 33-4.

Pitchers

Jakob Blackwell, Oktaha, Jr.

10-2, 0.73 ERA in 67 innings, 34 hits, 4 BBs, 96 Ks, .226 in 84 ABs.

Kielton Siedlik, Hilldale, Jr.

9-2, 2.08 ERA 47 Hs, 24 BBs, 91 Ks, .229 BA and .862 FPct.

Chase Nanni, Wagoner, Sr.

4-3, 0.72 ERA in 39 inn., 23 Hs, 17 Rs, 16 BBs, 59 Ks; .354 in 99 ABs, 10 2Bs, 3 3Bs 22 RBIs, .962 OBPct.

Brannon Westmoreland, Haskell, So.

6-1, 44 inn., 0.47 ERA with 20 Hs, 17 BBs, 54Ks; .988 FPct. in 117 chances; .379 in 66 ABs, 3 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 17 RBIs, 1.203 OPS

DH

Darius McNack, Wagoner, Sr.

.400 in 100 ABs, 6 2Bs, 4 HRs, 43 RBIs, 1.099 OPS.

Infield starters

1B: Brody Surmont, Oktaha, So.

.391 in 110 ABs, 13 2Bs, 1 HR, 31 RBIs, 1.061 OPS, .962 FPct.

2B: Grant Edwards, Fort Gibson, Jr.

.404 in 94 ABs, 2 2Bs, 1 3B, 22 RBIs, 33 BBs, 40 SBs, 1.012 OPS, .990 FPct. in 96 chances. Also: 9-1 on mound, 1.49 ERA.

SS: Luke Adcock, Eufaula, So.

.429 in 98 ABs, 1.165 OBPct., 10 2Bs 3 3Bs 3 HRs, 31 RBIs, .887 FPct. in 53 chances.

3B: Brock Butler, Checotah, Jr.

.500 in 114 ABs, 13 2Bs, 23 RBIs, 1.214 OPS, .880 FPct. in 68 chances.

C: Tucker Christian, Oktaha, Jr.

.377 in 114 ABs, 13 2Bs, 3 HRs, 50 RBIs, 1.090 OPS, .996 FPct. Allowed 23 stolen bases in 31 attempts and picked off four baserunners.

Outfield starters

Mason Ledford, Oktaha, Jr.

.367 in 119 ABs, 12 2Bs, 3 3Bs, 3 HRs, 39 RBIs, 1.139 OPS, 23 SB, .980 FPct.

James Wilson, Oktaha, Jr.

.363 in 91 ABs, 6 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 2 HRs, 27 RBIs, 25 SBs, 1.133 OPS, 1.000 FPct.

Wyatt Pierce, Fort Gibson, Fr. .366 in 112 ABs, 6 2Bs, 4 3Bs, 1 HRs, 19 RBIs, 37 SBs, .957 FPct.

Newcomer

Jace Jackson, C, Warner, Fr.

.444, 6 2Bs, .539 OBPct., .526 SLUG,'1.067 OPS, 2 2Bs 20 RBIs, 25 Rs.; 1.000 FPct. in 152 chances, 20-24 stolen bases.

Reserves

Landen Swallow, Warner, Jr., IF

.512, 12 2Bs, 1 3B, 1 HR, 39 RBIs, .810 FPct.

Fernando Gonzales, Haskell, Jr., IF

.488 in 9 2Bs, 6 3B, 26 RBIs, 22 SB, .753 FPct.

Hunter Dearman, Oktaha, So., IF

.360 in 86 ABs, 10 2Bs, 6 HRs, 38 RBIs, 1.144 OPS, .873 FPct.

Bristo Love, Wagoner, Sr. IF

.386 in 109 ABs, 10 2Bs, 1 HRs, 26 RBIs, .989 OPS, 27 SBs, .837 FPct.

Cole Phillips, Porter,Sr., 1B/DH

.402, 55 RBIs, 17 2Bs , 3 HRs, .927 FPct. in 37 chances.

Evan Smith, Hilldale, SS, Jr., IF

.393 in 89 ABs, 9 2Bs, 1 3Bs, 2 HRs, 34 RBIs, 1.080 OPS, 20 SBs, .854 FPct.

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