The rivalry between Norman High and Norman North can get pretty heated.
But there’s one thing both sides can agree upon: The Tigers and the Timberwolves have some awesome arms.
Seriously. These are guys you’ll want to go out and watch.
Over at North, Cale Russell has become one of the dominant pitchers in the state.
Wednesday, in the Edmond Classic, Russell struck out 14 Edmond North batters in a 3-2 T-Wolf win.
Russell has a fastball that pops and uses some nice off-speed stuff to confuse hitters. And when he’s on, he’s on.
“He can throw the change-up or curveball for a strike at any time,” North coach Brian Aylor said. “When you have that kind of command over three pitches, you’re very tough to beat.
“Cale has the ability, at any time, to dominate and make you look really bad.”
Like when he struck out 11 Tigers in the season’s first Crosstown Clash game.
“He just wants the ball,” Aylor said. “He wants to beat tough teams.”
Russell has been almost untouchable this season.
He’s 4-1 with two saves and a 0.92 earned run average. Most impressive, though, is that he’s struck out 59 batters in 30 innings. Russell’s also thrown four complete games, two of them shutouts.
Russell’s a senior and is headed to Wallace Junior College in Alabama.
Aylor has had another senior step up for him, and just in time.
One of North’s top arms, junior Ryan Allen, might be done for the season. He hasn’t pitched since a dominant performance in the second Clash game, and he’s going to get his shoulder looked at.
So, Garrett Callen’s improvement has been a welcome relief to Aylor and pitching coach Brad Dolejsi.
Callen is 2-1 with a 3.75 ERA and three complete games. He’s struck out 39 batters in 28 innings.
“He won’t overpower you,” Aylor said. “He’s a lefty that really only started pitching a year ago. He’s an amazing overachiever.”
This is Callen’s first year of varsity ball, and he’s undecided on where to go to school next year. But he’s done nothing but help himself with the way he’s come out of nowhere on the hill this season.
Nick Fowble and Travis Remillard have been on the hill for three of NHS’ four victories this season.
Fowble, a senior headed to NEOSHA in Missouri next year, is the ace of the staff.
He’s 2-3 with a 1.05 ERA and he’s struck out 50 batters in 33 2/3 innings.
“His fastball’s his best pitch,” NHS coach Doug Gillis said. “He hits his spots, has real good command. And he’s really tough to rattle.”
Fowble actually transferred from North last year, and all he’s done since is dominate for the Tigers.
He pitched in the Sunbelt Classic last summer and set a school record with 16 strikeouts against Choctaw a few weeks ago.
“He’s just a battler,” Gillis said. “He runs the fastball into the upper 80s and has a nasty slider.”
Remillard banks on his fastball, too, though he has a curveball that can drop off a table when he’s going good.
Remillard, a junior, has struck out 40 batters in 23 2/3 innings and sports a 1.50 ERA.
What impresses Gillis most, though, is that he seems to get stronger as a game goes on.
“He gets a little more pop every inning,” Gillis said. “He has better velocity in the seventh inning than in the first. Instead of wearing down, he gets better.”
Fowble and Remillard are the reason NHS, despite its 4-15 record, has a shot at winning some games once the postseason starts in three weeks.
“Both these guys are the real deal,” Gillis said. “They really are.”
All four of these guys are fun to watch, too.
It’s neat to see the way they control a game, the way they command the strike zone and make opponents look bad.
Home runs are exciting, but the local arms at NHS and North are worth checking out, too.
Jeff Johncox 366-3535 firstname.lastname@example.org