High School : : General
Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Westmoore: Just one win away

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Kale Davis (Westmoore HS Baseball)

2019 Perfect Game High School Preview Index

For two years in a row now, the Westmoore High School baseball team has finished the season right where it wanted to be, playing in the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) Class 6A state championship game.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is the Jaguars came up short in both games, losing to Mustang HS, 10-4, in 2017 and to Union HS, 3-2, in 2018. Finishing as the runner-up in the state’s big-school class two years running is nothing to scoff at, of course, but this year’s Jaguars are more than ready to take that last step.

“Obviously, for some of these seniors, the only thing they know is playing in the state finals,” fourth-year Westmoore head coach Joe Patterson told Perfect Game over the phone last week. “We want to win that last game but we’ve just got to remember that it takes a lot to get there.

"We did a lot of work and had a lot of stuff go our way to be able to play in the finals, but hopefully these seniors remember that feeling of being there and they can lead us all back; we’ve got a lot of work to do before we can get to that point.”

The 2017 and ’18 teams were a combined 60-15, with last year’s team finishing 33-6. The Jaguars return eight  everyday players from a season ago, two of whom also happened to be top pitchers; the collection includes five seniors, two juniors and a sophomore.

They will open this season at No. 7 in the PG High School Preseason National Top 50 Rankings and as the No. 3 team in the PGHS Texahoma Region (Texas, Oklahoma schools) behind Texas powers No. 1 Argyle and No. 3 Colleyville Heritage.

“I feel like we have a target on our back just because we have some of the best talent, but we’re also a really good ballclub that everybody knows about,” senior right-hander/corner-infielder Kale Davis told PG. “This year, coming into it, we’re going to have experience and we’re going to have the mental toughness to work through it.”

Davis is 6-foot-4, 220-pound Oklahoma State signee who PG ranks as the No. 66 overall national prospect in the 2019 class (No. 2 Oklahoma). He was 8-0 with a 1.81 ERA on the mound as a junior last season at Westmoore and threw a 14-strikeout perfect game at last summer’s PG 17u WWBA National Championship in Georgia.

He is joined the Jaguars’ roster by catcher Chance Westervelt (Cowley County CC), middle-infielder Erick Rey and outfielders Zac Johnson and Jacob Clark (Central Oklahoma, football) as key returning seniors.

Outfielder/first baseman Jace Bohrofen is among the top juniors back for Patterson, having hit .534 with 10 home runs and 58 RBI during his sophomore campaign in  2018; PG ranks the left-handed hitter Nos. 54/3 in the 2020 class.

Junior outfielder Cameron Uselton (Kansas State commit) also returns on the heels of a strong sophomore season. He is the brother of 2016 PG All-American Conner Uselton, who was a second-round  pick of Pirates in the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft and is currently a Pirates’ farmhand. Sophomore Dayton Wolfe is also back after starting last year as a freshman.

Missing from this year’s team, however, is the shortstop/right-hander Braxton Bohrofen, Jace’s older brother. Braxton was among the Jaguars’ top hitters and pitchers and has just started his freshman season at the University of Oklahoma. Jace has learned a lot from his older brother.

“I’ve grown up with him my whole life and watching him take it one day a time at practice and guiding me through these high school experiences and really just helping me,” he told PG. “Last year he had a big influence on me making me the player that I was.”

Now, heading into a new season, Patterson needs some one to fill Braxton Bohrofen’s sizable shoes.

“We did go through some battles so these guys are battle-tested, but we did lose our senior shortstop, who was really our leader,” Patterson said. “Now we’re looking for one of those eight guys to really step up into a leadership role, but talent-wise this should be probably one of the best teams that I’ve had since I’ve been here.”

A team that, for the last two years, has been just one win away from an Oklahoma state championship.

 

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THE WESTMOORE HIGH SCHOOL CAMPUS SITS IN SOUTH OKLAHOMA CITY
near the city of Moore and is actually a part of the Moore Public School District. The Jaguars baseball team plays in OSSAA Class 6A District 2 along with seven other schools that are located in Choctaw, Edmond, Lawton, Moore, Norman and Oklahoma City. Generally, when the playoffs start, Westmoore is paired with the Tulsa schools to the northeast.

Patterson called the level of play in the state “very competitive” and traditional power Owasso is also in the PGHS Preseason National Top-50 Rankings at No. 12.

He is also impressed with, and rightfully so, the  considerable amount of talent in the junior class across the state this spring with top 2020s Nate Wohlgemuth (Owasso HS, Arkansas commit, No. 10-ranked nationally); Daxton Fulton (Mustang HS, Vanderbilt, No. 33); his own Jace Bohrofen (No. 54); Cade Horton (Norman HS, Oklahoma, No. 55) and Dominic Johnson (Edmond Santa Fe, Oklahoma St., No. 89).

“It’s really, really good baseball,” Patterson said. “There are only 32 teams in 6A in Oklahoma but I think the top teams in 6A could probably play with anyone in the country.”

Patterson was an OSSAA all-state baseball and football player at Owasso High School where his dad, Bill Patterson, was the head football coach from 2007-16 and is currently an assistant athletic director at the school. Joe Patterson played college baseball at Oral Roberts University, Seminole State College and Texas A&M.

He served as an assistant coach Edmond Deer Creek HS in 2012, as an assistant baseball and football coach at Owasso in 2013-14, was the bullpen coach for the Team USA Collegiate National Team in 2014 and took over as head coach at Grove (Okla.) HS in 2015; he arrived at Westmoore in 2016.

Westmoore faced Owasso in the 6A state tournament semifinals a year ago and used a six-run sixth inning to pull away for an 11-6 victory. It was pure craziness from start to finish.

“When we played them last year in the semifinals, it was a little awkward,” Patterson confided. “There were all those guys there who coached me and my dad’s the assistant AD, so it was a different feeling for sure.”

He doesn’t like to talk to his players about the “good old days” when he was still playing, simply because he doesn’t think they care about it all that much. But with several of his players already committed to various college programs Patterson does talk to them about the adversity they will need to overcome once they are on campus.

“It’s not just what everybody sees on Twitter and the great videos with the brand new uniforms and brand new locker rooms,” he said. “It’s the 6 a.m. wakes and study hall and going to class and the 3-hour practices and it takes a special person to be able to handle that workload.”

This team is veteran enough to know that it does no one any good to get all tightened up and start freaking out when events aren’t going exactly the way they were planned. It’s about helping each other out and picking up the other guy, just to keep the confidence level high.

That approach is what has helped the Jaguars reach the lofty position that they’re in. They learn from their mistakes and then apply those lessons in their next game.

“We’re all close; it’s a brotherhood over here and that’s what we preach,” the senior Davis said. “There’s no drama in the clubhouse or nothing like that and we have each other’s backs. It’s one of those things where we have fun together when we play and you can’t beat that.

“We know how to come back from a loss, or we know how to come back from losing a senior or two or losing a piece,” he added. “We know how to put the puzzle pieces together and make it whole.”

The Jaguars try to schedule an annual spring break trip to play some out-of-state competition and this spring will be heading back down to Biloxi, Miss., for a week. The junior Bohrofen described a team with players who close with each other and plays for each other, and the spring break trip plays a big role in team-bonding.

“We usually go on a winning streak after spring break and I think that’s largely because we get closer to each other and bond,” he said. “This is a good group of guys and we all come to practice ready to work.”

Those pieces Davis referred to really came together for the Jaguars during their march to last year’s championship game, and they really felt like momentum was on their side.

“It was awesome,” Bohrofen said. “We were all ready to get back to where we were the year before and getting back (to the championship game) was nice. We were all pumped up during the regionals and then getting to state.”

But, alas, they finished just one win away from claiming the ultimate prize.


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THIS 2019 JAGUARS TEAM FEATURES PLAYERS WITH SOME PRETTY LAID-BACK PERSONALITIES,
according to Patterson, and he likes their even-keeled nature. It’s hard to tell by their body language if they’re up by five runs or down by five runs because their actions don’t really change.

“They don’t get too high, they don’t get too low, and sometimes that rare in high school,” he said. “They do a really good job of handling their emotions.”

Davis sees a high level of maturity amongst his teammates and it doesn’t have anything to do with how old they are or if their seniors or sophomores; it’s just the mental side of things. He sees guys stepping up to the plate and getting five, six or seven-pitch at-bats and guys on the mound who know how to stay focused even when the opponent has put runners on base and maybe scored a run or two.

“Our biggest thing is to play every game just like it’s a normal game,” Davis said, referring to the championship games. “If you get into situations where you start pressing, you play it a different way and then you fall short and then you get all tightened up. Baseball is a loose game and you’ve got to play it like it’s another game and go have fun.”

The No. 7 national ranking PG has bestowed on this team is certainly noteworthy, and Patterson is very appreciative of the preseason recognition his program is receiving. To see your school’s name up there in the same room with traditional prep powers from California, Florida, Georgia and Texas is something to be extremely proud of.

The coaches talk to the players about tradition and how they are trying to establish a tradition in a program that won its only state championship in 1994. But it is also a program that has averaged 31 wins over the previous five seasons and shows no sign of slowing down.

“It is neat to be recognized, mostly for our kids and our coaching staff because of the work they’ve put in and they can see it out there,” he said. “It’s good to be rewarded but mostly it’s a pride thing; be proud to be a Westmoore baseball player.”

Davis talked about how, when he was younger, his dream was to simply be good enough so he could make the varsity roster without getting cut, and he’s obviously exceeded that. Advancing to state championship games in consecutive seasons with the plan to make it three straight this spring, was never really on the drawing board.

“Now, it’s about more than just ourselves,” he said. “We’re playing for the ‘W’ on our chests and for the people who have played in the past. We play with pride and we play with a lot of fun because the guys that came through here, we’re playing for them, as well.”

Bohrofen has been playing on the Westmoore varsity since he was a freshman, so he, too, understands the pain incurred by the championship game defeats; he prefers to keep looking ahead.

“You can definitely use it as a learning experience,” he said. “You lose that last game and you just say you’ve got to get that bad taste out of my mouth, so you’re just finding anything and everything leading up to that season for next the season, just wanting to get back to that game and finishing it out.”

Bohrofen also offered this thought: “It sucks losing two years in a row but the third time a charm. Hopefully we can back there this year and end the season with a ‘W’. I know everyone on the team has a common goal, and that’s to win the last game of the season.”

Davis, like his senior peers, is also painfully aware of just how close the Jaguars came to winning a state championship, especially last year when they dropped the one-run decision to Union. They were just a couple of outs – heck, a couple of pitches – away from claiming that big gold trophy.

It was particularly disappointing because Davis remains convinced that all the pieces needed were in place – talented players to go along with a winning attitude – that winning a state championship requires. To fall short of that, well …

“It’s been hard to deal with that,” he said. “But now it’s more of a thing where you can look back and it pushes you and motivates you to do it this year, and that’s our goal.”

It’s not going to be easy, of course, and it wouldn’t really be all that much fun if it was. Just being a part of the  Westmoore Jaguars baseball team is a lot of fun right now, anyway, and no one of this nationally No. 7-ranked ballclub is taking anything for granted.

“Growing up in this program has helped me a lot; getting good coaching and then also playing with good players has made me a better player,” Bohrofen said. “When we’re ranked this high, we’re always going to have a target on our backs so we’re always going to get everyone’s best. We’ve just got to take it one day a time and play the game in front of you and not look ahead.”

And always remember, these guys know how it feels to be just one win away …



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