With Jared West pitching and Matt Martin doing a little bit of everything, North DeSoto brought home the school’s first state baseball championship in May.
Without West and Martin, who graduated a couple of weeks after the title run, the Griffins have done something the titleists could not — win 13 straight games.
“I’m very surprised,” Griffins coach Bo Odom said. “These guys have found ways to win ballgames. They’ve been fun to watch. We’ve been down to our last out, down to our last strike. They believe in themselves, and it’s working. I can’t really put my finger on it.”
A season ago, West was a dominant starter, never more so than in the playoffs, pitching the Griffins into the title game.
There isn’t a West, a 39th-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in June’s MLB draft and now at the University of Houston, in the Griffins’ rotation this season, but his role has been filled by Lane Thurman.
Thurman is 4-0 and has been a force at the plate with an average hovering around the .400 mark, helping North DeSoto carry a 15-3 record into today’s game against Lakeview.
“The most surprising or improved player didn’t even play for us last year, and that’s Lane Thurman,” Odom said. “You definitely have to give him his props. He came in last year, and we had West and Martin and (Austin) Pinnick and (Chip) Eubanks. He was the fifth wheel. It’s fun when kids get their turn and take advantage of it. You get your turn and take advantage of it, or someone else will. He’s grasped that.”
The Griffins open District 1-3A play Thursday at Loyola and should be healthier than they have been at any point this season.
“We got Hunter Thomas back from shoulder surgery this weekend,” Odom said. “Eubanks had shoulder surgery over the winter. He’s able to throw a little bit. We had all those guys hurt and still won ballgames. These kids are confident. They believe in themselves. They never think they’re beat, no matter how bad the situation is.
“I tell them baseball has no time clock. They’ve got to get you out 21 times. Fortunately for us, only three teams have gotten us out 21 times with the lead.”
The Falcons’ 14-5 start has been fueled by overcoming something that has plagued Northwood in Darien Dukes’ first two years as head coach.
“The real reason (we’re playing well) is we have guys who are throwing strikes,” Dukes said. “That’s something that has eluded us in the first two years I’ve been here.”
Dukes brought in B.J. Litchfield, a former Shreveport-Bossier Captains pitcher and coach, to be his new pitching coach.
So far, the results have been as good as expected.
“He’s got a good rapport with the kids,” Dukes said.
Litchfield has the Falcons pitchers less focused on strikeouts than in the past.
“We’ve got two guys, Don Hodge and Cole Barnette, who really come out and pitch to contact,” Dukes said. “That’s one of the things B.J. preaches. We’ve had low pitch counts, and we’re just not walking anybody.”
The Times needs baseball statistics. Coaches can send their stats via fax to (318) 459-3301 or by email to email@example.com. Hitting stats needed are games played, at-bats, hits, runs, home runs and RBIs. Pitching stats needed are wins, losses, saves, innings pitched, strikeouts and ERA.