The Norman Transcript

March 10, 2014

For NHS and North, all eyes focused on the mound

By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Baseball season is in full swing, with both Norman High and Norman North playing a full slate of games this week, and both teams have pitching on their minds.

For defending state runner-up North, it’s a pitching core led by several returners who believe they have what it takes to get the Timberwolves back into the state title game. At NHS, the Tigers are looking to several promising newcomers to the squad as they try to take the program to new heights.

The Timberwolves , whocame up just short of upsetting Owasso in the state title game a season ago, return starting pitchers Brad Kinsey and Austin Cranford, both of whom were instrumental in the team’s run a season ago. North also has back middle reliever Brandon Johnson.

It’s a trio that coach Brian Aylor said has the talent and experience necessary to lead North on another deep play off run.

“I expect to see great things out of them,” he said. “We have three strong arms there, and a few other guys who gave us some innings last year who can step up.”

The Timberwolves return most of their defense, though they lost a few notable defenders in DJ Gasso and Luke Jones. Nick Basquine, who is going to Oklahoma as a preferred walk-on for the football team, will play one more season of baseball and move from right field to center to fill the gap left by Jones. The T-Wolves also return a handful of other position starters and welcome a pair of newcomers sure to make an impact.

That would be Thomas and Hal Hughes, sons of new Oklahoma baseball coach Pete Hughes. Thomas is a junior who will start at shortstop while his freshman brother Hal will start at third. Thomas also will give the T-Wolves some innings on the mound.

While the lineup will again be loaded, it’s the pitching staff that will lead North as they try to make another deep run.

“Last year we went as far as we could go,” Aylor said. “The loss was great in some aspects because getting to that final game took the program to a new level. And the guys who were left behind have used it for motivation. We’re excited and ready to go. We’ve been waiting a long time to get back to this moment and start another journey.”

At NHS, it will be a brand-new journey for a mostly-inexperienced pitching staff. While the Tigers do return PJ Grunstead and Paul Reed, Reed has been dealing with a lingering injury in his elbow and hasn’t pitched yet this season.

That means a lot of responsibility will fall to seniors Tristen Epperson and Brayden Armstrong as well junior Jason Burt, all of whom will see significant time this season after not throwing many innings last year.

“Our pitching has got to be a key for us,” coach Pete Sangirardi said. “We’ve got to get ahead in the count. We don’t have a pitcher who’s going to come in and blow by anybody; we’ve got to hit our spots and work off our secondary pitches.”

Corbin Hosler

Follow me @Chosler88

chosler@normantranscript.com

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