By BEN JOHNSON
The training wheels have been removed. The level of expectations has been upgraded considerably for Tahlequah baseball.
Instead of hoping for a bloop single of a season, Tahlequah coach Nick Zodrow said it’s time to start hitting home runs.
“This will be the first season where we have high expectations about the upcoming season,” Zodrow said. “The past three seasons we were just trying to take the next progressive step in just getting better. Now, this year with a great group of kids, we are going to have to learn how to play with expectations.
“We are now the hunted and not the hunters.”
That begins Friday when the Tigers take on Union in their season opener in Tulsa. Tahlequah will follow that up with a District 5A-3 game at Grove on Monday before debuting at home Tuesday in the second of back-to-back games with the Ridgerunners.
The Tigers are coming off a 21-14 campaign in which they finished second in 5A-3 behind Claremore. However, Tahlequah was derailed by Skiatook en route to the state tournament during regional play.
This season, Zodrow said the goal isn’t to just make the state tournament, it’s to win the 5A crown.
“I took this group of seniors my first year to watch the state championship games and told them that if they will work hard and are coachable we would have a chance to play on that stage,” Zodrow said. “We, as a team, want it bad to go out with a state tournament bid, but we really want to go out on top with a state championship.”
It would be quite the turnaround for a group of seniors that includes Logan Lewis, Lane Cobb, Connor Mutzig and Stephen Wheeler. When the senior quartet started out during Zodrow’s first year, the Tigers finished far from a .500 record.
But, Tahlequah has been on an upswing every season since. And now those four will provide offensive firepower in what could be a lethal batting order.
“Our lineup has the potential of being a very potent and productive lineup,” said Zodrow, who added that Lewis would lead off with Mutzig, Colby Brittain, Austin Riley, Cobb and Houston Glad all possessing the ability to drive runs in further down the lineup.
On the pitching mound, Tahlequah will depend on Glad to be the ace.
“Houston Glad will undoubtedly be our No. 1 and the anchor of our staff,” Zodrow said. “He has worked very hard and put himself in a position to have great success.”
Beyond Glad, Wheeler, Brittain, Riley, Brock Mitchell, Mutzig, Ryan Sanders, Lewis and Cobb are all viable options to get innings at some point.
As for whether he feels any added burden to win with the core group he has, Zodrow said, “I don’t feel pressure as a coach, simply because I know that me and my staff have worked hard to put our guys in a position to be successful. And as long as we are building young men and providing discipline and accountability, the wins and losses will take care of itself. And if you’re confident in how you have led your team, then positive results happen.”
2013 Tahlequah baseball schedule
Date Opponent Time
March 1 @ Union 4:30 p.m.
M 4 @ Grove 4:30 p.m.
M 5 Grove 4:30 p.m.
M 7 @ East Central 4:30 p.m.
M 8 East Central 4:30 p.m.
M 11 @ Skiatook 4:30 p.m.
M 12 Skiatook 4:30 p.m.
M 14-16 Owasso tournament TBA
M 21-25 Pensacola (Fla.) tournament TBA
M 25 Coweta 4:30 p.m.
M 26 @ Coweta 4:30 p.m.
M 29 Collinsville 5 p.m.
April 1 @ Collinsville 5 p.m.
A 4 @ Hilldale 4:30 p.m.
A 8 Salina 4:30 p.m.
A 12 @ Salilna 4:30 p.m.
A 13 Nixa (Mo.) / Ozark (Mo.) 2:30 / 5 p.m.
A 15 @ Booker T. Washington 4 p.m.
A 16 Booker T. Washington 4 p.m.
A 18-20 Tahlequah tournament TBA
A 22 @ Claremore 6:30 p.m.
A 23 Claremore 4:30 p.m.
A 25 @ Owasso 7 p.m.
May 2-4 Regional tournament TBA
M 7-11 State tournament TBA