GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Two of the premier Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) baseball teams squared off on Thursday with a Class 6A District 4 championship on the line when Jenks High School and Muskogee High School met …
Oh, hold on a minute while the notes scribbled in this Perfect Game notebook are checked for accuracy. Ah, here we are. It was the right cast of characters, just the wrong screenplay.
The Jenks Trojans and the Muskogee Roughers, two of the top programs in OSSAA Class 6A (big school) on an annual basis, collided Thursday in the championship game of the Premier Division at the Coach Bob National Invitational Tournament. The event features 105 teams this year competing in eight divisions and the Premier Division champion was one of the first crowned.
The two Oklahoma teams completed the Premier Division pool-play portion of the four-day tournament with 3-0 records to set-up the matchup. At the end of the day, Jenks (9-0) downed Muskogee (8-3), 8-2, in a game played at Desert Edge High School. Just across the street at Goodyear Ballpark the host Cincinnati Reds beat the Texas Rangers, 5-4 in 10 innings, in spring training Cactus League play.
The Trojans knocked off Tolleson (Ariz.), Desert Edge (Ariz.) and Bartlesville (Okla.) by a combined score of 25-2 to reach the title the game against the Roughers. It was a dominant performance from a team looking to possibly crack the Perfect Game National High School Top-50 Rankings for the first time this season.
“It’s nice, it’s awesome and it’s really nice that we got to play some Oklahoma teams down here,” Premier Division tournament Most Valuable Player and Jenks shortstop and right-hander Allan Beer said. “We came out here and won some games and we kept it going. (Muskogee’s) head coach (Jeremy Griffin) used to coach at Jenks my sophomore year, so we know him pretty well. It was good.”
Beer, a senior ranked in the top-500 nationally and a Bradley signee, was particularly good. He worked six scoreless innings giving up just one hit with 12 strikeouts and two walks. He struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth and two of the three batters he faced in the bottom of the sixth.
“The sixth inning was kind of tough after the long (top of the sixth) inning but I felt good the whole way,” he said. “I was a little tired there at the end but that happens with a long break like that.”
The game was a pitcher’s duel until that long top of the sixth inning. Jenks took a 1-0 lead off of Muskogee’s junior right-handed starter Tony Jr. Horn in the top of the fifth on an RBI single from senior Christopher Hendrix, but Horn was solid otherwise – until he wasn’t. He allowed five hits in 5 2/3 innings, but one of those hits and both of his walks and a hit batsmen all came in a disastrous sixth inning for the Roughers.
Jenks scored five runs in the frame on singles from Beer and Cadon Owens, along with five walks and the hit batsmen, with four runs scoring on bases loaded walks. The Trojans scored two more runs in the top of the seventh on an RBI triple from junior Barrett Loseke and another RBI single from Hendrix. Muskogee scored its two runs in the bottom of the seventh with Dakota Morse delivering an RBI double.
It was a kind of a cool thing that two eastern Oklahoma teams got to meet in the championship game of one of the Coach Bob National Invitational Tournament divisions, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been unexpected.
This is Jenks’ head coach Danny Morgan’s 41st year of coaching in the Oklahoma high school ranks but only his second year at Jenks. He previously coached at Okmulgee High School for 38 years before retiring and then joined the Jenks’ staff as an assistant in 2012. He became the head coach in 2013.
“I’m totally blessed,” Morgan said before the championship game began on Thursday. “The Good Lord has taken care of me and to end up my career at the highest level in Oklahoma, it’s a pretty good deal for me.”
And the trip down to Phoenix has just added to that blessing.
“It’s been a good trip for us and, obviously, the weather has been more conducive to what we left in Oklahoma,” he said. “We’re real pleased to be here and we’re looking forward for the opportunity today to play. That’s what we’re out here for is to play and get better and we’re real excited about the opportunity.”
Muskogee played in this tournament last year under the direction of second-year head coach Jeremy Griffin. He wasn’t the least bit surprised to be paired up against the veteran Morgan and the formidable Jenks Trojans in the Premier Division title game.
“We were kind of joking about that the other day that if we go down here and we do well in this tournament and they do well, we’re going to end up meeting in the finals,” Griffin said before the first pitch. “It’s good though; these guys (Jenks) are a great team. But it is kind of funny that we traveled halfway across the country to play a district team for the championship.”
“When we go back home, Muskogee is in our district and they’ll be one of our main competitions to have the opportunity to win a district championship,” Jenks’ Morgan said. “It’s kind of ironic to (travel) all this way and play somebody you know pretty well.”
It’s true that Jenks and Odessa high schools play in the same OSSAA Class 6A (big school) district back home and will host one another in a home-and-home games April 14 and 15. Both teams are very talented and the coaches know when they meet the outcome is up for grabs.
“We feel like a year-and-a-half in, these kids have been working their butts off. There’s a lot of talent and a lot of really good kids in this group and they’re a fun group to coach,” Griffin said of his Roughers.
“This is a good team, and that’s what we’ve talked about is building a family environment and playing together,” Morgan said of his Trojans. “No one is more important than the team and these kids have bought into that. Yes, we have some outstanding players and we’ve got an outstanding group of coaches that have pointed them in the right direction. We just feel very fortunate with the group we have, and talent goes a long way, too, and we’ve got some.”
It’s the overall experience the teams competing in the Coach Bob National Invitational get to enjoy that makes a 2,000-mile round-trip to the desert from eastern Oklahoma to play a virtual next-door neighbor all worthwhile. These schools are on spring break, after all.
“It’s been a great trip and the guys have had a lot of fun,” Griffin said. “We’ve come out and played some good baseball and it’s been good. One of the things we like is to get out here and see some teams that we’ll never see again, so it’s fun. We get to play those out of state teams and kind of see some new competition. We feel like Oklahoma has some of the best high school baseball in the country but it’s nice to get out and see teams from these other states and play some of those teams and see where we’re at.”
The Roughers went to a Cubs-Rangers Cactus League game in Surprise on Tuesday and were planning on seeing the Giants-Mariners game Thursday night in Peoria.
“This is an unbelievable experience. We came out here last year and just loved it,” Griffin continued. “Last year we kind of debated, ‘Do we want to go to Florida or do we want to go to Phoenix?’ and there was no debate this year. After coming down last year with all the spring training games here so close together and with the weather – the Coach Bob tournament has been incredible.”
By the time the Coach Bob National Invitational Tournament concludes at the end of the next week, a total of eight division champions will be crowned. Jenks High School, out of the great state of Oklahoma, is just among the first.
“We came down here to get better and we feel like we’ve gotten better every day,” Morgan said. “The competition has been good, which we knew it would be, and when we go back we know we’ve got great competition, too – 6A baseball in Oklahoma is very good. When you have to beat Owasso and Union and Broken Arrow, Sand Springs, Muskogee, Stillwater – when you have to play those teams you have to bring your ‘A’ game every day, and we’ve had to do that out here.
“It’s been good for us and it’s been a good trip and we’re glad we’re here, and we’re looking forward to coming back next year if everything works out all right.”