LOOKING AHEAD: The Owasso Ramd Baseball team hopes for another State Championship in 2017.
Courtesy of Owasso Athletic Department
Owasso was eliminated in the first round at state tournament last season. It wants to avoid that this year. Although a few starters were lost to graduation, the Rams have a strong core back and aim to win a second championship in three years.
“We always have the fire to get to back to that final game of the season,” says Owasso coach Larry Turner, who is now in his 33rd year as head coach. “We just want to have the opportunity to play in the last game of the year. We were disappointed that we didn’t make it to the finals, but not everybody can do that.”
The Owasso coaching staff likes the team they’re putting on the diamond in 2017. As of mid-March, the Rams are unbeaten. They have wins against some solid ball clubs, including schools down in Florida, where the Rams played over spring break. Before the trip, Owasso picked up quality wins in its own tournament against Collinsville, Norman and Midwest City.
Going down to Florida has been a normal routine for the Rams. They went there for the first time in 1989. Having built a great relationship with a coach, Turner began taking the program there 10 years later for tournament play on an annual basis. The Rams have traveled to Florida every year, except one, since.
“We play some really good players and some real good teams, and it gives us a good measuring stick to see where we are,” Turner says. “We feel like, typically, when we go back to Oklahoma, we play teams that are just as talented. We’ve played against Prince Fielder, Andrew McCutchen, we beat Chris Sale; we’ve played against some really good players around here. It’s fun from that standpoint, to look back and say, ‘Hey, we’ve played against some really good players here.’
“It’s a trip that we look forward to and we try to do a really good job and represent Oklahoma and Owasso proudly and do the right thing. It’s just a good learning experience for the kids and we just enjoy doing it,” Turner says.
The pitching is strong and plentiful.
“We have Brayden Lloyd (junior) coming back. He’s the one who got the victory two years ago in the state finals as a freshman,” Turner says. “Then we have the freshman phenom that everyone keeps talking about, Nate Wohlgemuth, who played on Team USA this past summer. We’re excited to have him.”
Senior Athanie Leeviraphan returns to the outfield but is also part of the pitching rotation.
“We’ve used him to pitch this year. He has had two really good starts for us, and that’s going to help us on the pitching side of it,” Turner says. “Then we have Jake Thompson, who just got here from basketball. He’s had a couple of relief appearances. When he comes in the game, we have been either tied or behind, and he’s gotten two victories by us taking the lead while he’s in the game. Jake is going to be a great pitcher.”
Seniors Bailey Smith and Andrew Wise are getting their first varsity action. There is also C.D. White, who plays first base when not pitching.
“Our strength is our ability to throw strikes and not trying to do more than they are capable of doing,” Turner says. “We stick by the motto, ‘we may not have the best players, but we are going to try to have the best team.’”
Connor Beichler returns to the infield at shortstop, along with senior catcher Jake Enzbrenner, who has valuable experience behind the plate, Turner says.
The Rams also welcome back junior Caleb Denny, who pitched as a freshman. “He is just killing the ball,” Turner says.
Junior Charlie Ruess has taken over at second base. “He has been amazing there, better than in my wildest dreams,” Turner says.
As the Rams strive toward their goal of winning state, they know their strongest foes who will stand in the way.
“I think Edmond Deer Creek has a quality program,” Turner says. “The usual suspects on this side of the state are Broken Arrow, Jenks and Union. Stillwater also has a good club. I think it’s pretty wide open this year, and it’s just who can go out and play the game, minimize mistakes and get timely hitting.
“We really like this club and think we got a chance to get there in May and have an opportunity to play in that last game and that’s all we can ask for,” Turner says.