NORMAN — Just a week into the season Norman North faced a crossroads few teams face so early. One of the Timberwolves’ senior leaders — Kallen Snodgrass — went down with an injury that threatened to keep him out for the entire year. That created a vacuum that coach Brian Aylor had to scramble to fill. And while he sought the right formula North fell to 3-4.
For a team that was fresh off its first championship game appearance last season, it wasn’t the start that anyone expected to 2014.
“The injury threw everyone for a loop,” Aylor said. “Losing his leadership and playing some of our younger players is something it takes time to adjust to.”
It was an unlucky series of events that made a North team with a strong senior class, but also several new faces, re-evaluate itself. Aylor said then the Timberwolves could either throw in the towel, or they could use it as a chance to improve.
A month later, there’s no doubt which path the T-wolves took.
“Our final game at a tournament in Florida, that was the turning point,” Aylor said. “We went back and looked at our on-base percentage, and put those guys at the top of the lineup. That final game, we got down to a really good team, and that’s when it turned. We came back in that game and won, and that was the start.”
Whatever the reason, things began to click. The Timberwolves finalized the first two pitching positions for the all-important district schedule. They moved Hal Hughes into the two-hole to maximize their baserunners. They filled the hole left in the infield from Snodgrass’ injury, and the underclassmen began to better understand their roles.
It worked. North would go on to win its next 12 games before dropping Thursday’s game to Moore. Brad Kinsey and Thomas Hughes are a combined 11-1 with 80 strikeouts between them and have helped the T-Wolves get off to a perfect 8-0 start in District 6A-2. The team batting average is over .300 and four players — Leo Gallegos, Thomas Hughes, Nick Basquine and Joe Nostrand — are all batting over .350.