LARRY LARKIN

Progress Correspondent



The job is hot and dirty, and the hours most of the time are long.

No complaints, however, are coming from Aaron Conger. His job is playing catcher for the Rogers County Rangers, and he likes it.

Conger and his American Legion baseball teammates will be back in action at Legion Field Friday night as they bid for a berth in the next week’s state tournament at Enid.

The Rangers will face Okmulgee at 5:37 p.m.

Okmulgee advanced with a 16-5 thrashing of Salina Thursday night. Earlier in the season, Salina stopped Okmulgee, 3-0.

The loser of Rangers-Okmulgee game will return at 8:07 p.m. to play Salina in the double-elimination tournament.

The championship game is scheduled for 5:37 p.m. Saturday.

Right now Ranger coach Todd Bingham is thinking only about this weekend's games.

"We need to win two games to move on,” Rangers coach Todd Bingham said Thursday.

“Two losses and we are through."

Before the summer season started, Bingham said that his new team would be good enough to compete in the finals. The Rangers have lived up to his belief as they have rolled up a 28-6 record.

One of the big reasons for this successful run has been the play of Sequoyah graduate Conger. He will be behind the plate Friday to handle Matt Sparks' pitches.

"Aaron has done a great job catching this season," Bingham said. "He is one of those players who gets in the dirt and gets with it. He will catch five games in a row if we need him back there."

Although he wasn't expected to work both games of last Saturday's doubleheader, Conger did just that despite the near 100-degree heat.

Zane Williams was scheduled to work the second contest. However, when left fielder Justus Edwards came down sick between games, Williams stayed in the field and Conger remained behind the plate.

"I know he has had two walk-off hits (base hits that ended games), and one of those was a grand slam," Bingham said. "He is having a great season for us."

Playing good defense all along, Conger started the season hitting less than .200. That has changed. He will take a .321 batting average into Friday night’s game.

Bingham credits the success of Conger, and the team, to a 70-plus-year-old grandfather.

"Bob comes out before each home game and works with our hitters," Bingham said.

The man he is referring to is Bob Blaylock, former pitcher for the Tulsa Oilers and the St. Louis Cardinals.

He’s the grandfather of Rangers pitcher Josh Beal. He throws batting practice and occasionally will address any flaws he might spot in a player’s game.

"I've tried to get him in uniform, but I can't get him to agree," Bingham said. "I know the guys listen to him and he has certainly helped us."

Blaylock was 21 when he reached the major leagues in 1956.

The Rangers enter the playoffs with a .350 batting average.