High School : : General
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No. 3 Tigers feast on success

Jeff Dahn        

This is the fourth of a 7-part series unveiling the 2011 Perfect GameNational High School Top 50 Rankings.

February 18: # 6-10

February 21: #5

February 22: #4

February 23: #3

February 24: #2

February 25: #1, entire top 50 list

No. 3 Broken Arrow (OK)

Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association Class 6A (Frontier Valley Conference)

2010 Results: 32-8 (Regional Champions; Lost in State Semifinals)

Key Losses: C Mitch Osburn (Seminole State College); INF Dillon Robinson (Fort Scott CC)

Top Players: RHP Archie Bradley (Oklahoma); RHP Mason Hope (Oklahoma); C Dylan Delso (Arizona State)

Notable Matchups: March 11-19 @ Winter Haven (Fla.) Tournament; March 29 @ Union; April 15 @ Owasso; April 30 vs. Jenks @ Oneok Field (Tulsa)

Back in mid-January, the Broken Arrow (Okla.) High School Baseball Booster Club staged its 7th Annual Wildlife Festival in the high school cafeteria.

Everyone involved with the program at Oklahoma’s largest high school situated in the Tulsa suburbs contributed to the fare. The menu was exotic in an outdoorsmen sort of way, with duck kabobs, pheasant, venison chili, smoked venison, quail, fried fish and other delicacies.

The folks in and around Broken Arrow love to fish and hunt, and then they love to sit down and share their bounty. And the student-athletes at BAHS have not only acquired a taste for venison, quail and pheasant, but also for winning baseball games with a certain amount of regularity.

It’s usually feast, not famine, for Broken Arrow on the baseball fields of northeastern Oklahoma.

The Tigers’ baseball team and ninth-year head coach Shannon Dobson kicked off their 2011 season in mid-February after a 2010 campaign in which they won a school record 32 games, captured a regional tournament championship and lost in the semifinal round of the OSSAA Class 6A state tournament.

Dobson returned almost all the key ingredients from that successful 2010 ballclub, a main reason the Tigers have earned the No. 3 ranking in the Perfect Game National High School 2011 Preseason Rankings, and why team members and Broken Arrow boosters are hoping to win the school’s first state championship since 1991.

Broken Arrow has advanced to the state tournament six times in Dobson’s eight years at the school, but never to the championship game.

“Our expectations always going in are to play in that final game and have a chance to play for the state title,” Dobson said in a recent conversation with Perfect Game. “This group of seniors has been playing together a lot, varsity-wise, since their sophomore year. We’ve got a lot of returning starters … and it’s a group that has played together. It’s probably one of the best senior groups as far as ability that we’ve had come through here.”

That senior group is led by right-handers Archie Bradley and Mason Hope, both of whom have signed letters-of-intent with the University of Oklahoma.

Other top seniors include catcher Dylan Delso, infielders Nick Pettus, Tyler McKinzie and Tyler Kruse, and outfielder Tyler Rolland. Delso received a lot of attention at last year’s Area Code Games when he reached base nine times in 12 plate appearances. He has signed with Arizona State, Pettus with Arkansas-Little Rock, McKinzie with Crowder College and Kruse with Seminole State College.

Bradley (PG No. 3-ranked nationally, No. 1 Oklahoma, class of 2011) and Hope (PG 109-3) anchor a pitching staff that ranks among the top in the country. Junior left-hander Jacob Evans adds another quality arm.

Bradley, an Aflac All-American, was 7-5 with a 1.46 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 67 innings last spring. Hope finished 9-2 with a 1.31 ERA and 97 punch-outs in 64 innings and Evans was 7-1 with a 1.00 ERA.

“The strength of our team is going to be our pitching staff,” Dobson said. “We’ve got some guys that have played at a high level and are going to have the opportunity to move on and play at higher levels. We feel like going in, with the staff that we have and if we can play defense, and we can manage to push (across) over two runs (a game) we’ll be all right.”

Bradley is a special case.

He signed with Oklahoma to play quarterback for Coach Bob Stoops but also plans to play baseball for the Sooners and Coach Sunny Golloway. He is also projected to be a top-10 pick in the 1st round of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft, an event that could present him with the difficult choice of enrolling at OU or accepting an MLB signing bonus that would realistically be worth several million dollars.

In a story in the Tulsa World late last year, Bradley was quoted as saying, “money’s not everything.” He said his situation could be similar to that of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who opted to stay in school instead of entering this year’s NFL Draft.

“He loves playing college football and wanted to try to win a national championship and wanted to get a degree, and maybe that’s what I want to do,” Bradley said in the World article.

Dobson simply remains impressed with his senior right-hander.

“He’s a guy – you just don’t get very many of those guys at this level that come along,” Dobson said. “Archie is a guy that is going to be a workhorse for us, and if he does what he’s supposed to do, he’s going to have an opportunity to maybe go high in the (MLB) Draft.

 “You don’t usually see a guy that can go two sports at that high of level,” he continued. “He’s the type of athlete that can play at the Division I level in both sports. He’s a unique guy and a guy we’re going to depend on a lot.”

Dobson also praised Hope, who will play only baseball at OU unless he too is a high MLB Draft pick.

“Mason, I think, is a guy that’s going to progress through the year and potentially could be a (high Draft pick) as well,” Dobson said. “So to have two of those guys on your staff to anchor it along with two or three other guys that are going to be really good high school and college pitchers – we’ve got some depth on the mound that we probably won’t see very often.”

Broken Arrow plays in the Frontier Valley Conference, generally recognized as the strongest baseball league in Oklahoma with Owasso, defending Class 6A state champion Union and Jenks. Owasso has been in the 6A state finals 13 of the past 14 years.

The Tigers will take a weeklong spring break trip to Winter Haven, Fla., planned for mid-March, where they will face some of the top teams from Florida and other states. Dobson had taken his team to Arizona for spring-break trips the last five years and decided to head to the Southeast this year.

An Oklahoma Class 6A state championship is the ultimate goal for the Broken Arrow Tigers, but Dobson wants his players to enjoy the ride along the way. The future will be here soon enough.

“We don’t want to get too caught up with what’s happening at the end because you want to kind of enjoy what you’re doing now,” he said. “We just try to build and get better as we go, and (want to) be playing our best at the end. That’s going to be this group’s biggest obstacle – staying hooked up every game and try not to look too far ahead.”

But Dobson also knows a unique opportunity is there for his 2011 Tigers.

“We’ve got a lot of talent … but talent doesn’t always equate to wins,” he said. “It’s good to have it, but this group has to learn to play as a team and play for each other. If we do that, we’re going to be tough to beat.”

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