TULSA — Ask Verdigris High School coach Ben Guinn what he expects to gain by his team playing in this summer’s Diamond Baseball League and he will have a quick reply.
“Build depth. That’s the only thing,” Guinn says after his club finished 26-8 in the spring and was eliminated in the Class 3A regional semifinals with losses to Bethany and Okemah.
With four pitchers seeing duty and 13 different players coming to the plate, Guinn had plenty of opportunities to see several players in action in a 7-3 DBL loss to Bixby on Wednesday night at Union High School’s Redskin Field.
“Our depth wasn’t very good last year,” said Guinn, who has been Verdigris’ lone baseball coach during the program’s — and high school’s — eight-year existence.
“We lost seven starters from our 2005 team but only one senior starter (A.J. Roller) from this spring’s squad,” the coach said.
Building a solid pitching corps is among one of Guinn’s priorities for next season. He sees a possible starting rotation of Heath Haggard, Nick Ward, Caleb Worley and Ryan Goumaz for 2007.
“We have some good arms returning next year with all four of those pitchers coming back,” Guinn said.
Two of those hurlers, righthanders Haggard and Worley, saw an inning each against Bixby. Although neither surrendered a hit, each allowed a pair of walks while combining to amass three strikeouts and throw three wild pitches.
Also seeing action were Kirk Weber, who tossed the first two innings, and Justin Matthews, who sandwiched an out between a pair of walks before the game was called in the bottom of the fifth inning because of the league’s time limit for games.
Offensively, Verdigris started slowly. The Cardinals did not get their first hit until Matthews singled to left with two outs in the third.
Bixby rolled up a 7-0 lead after four innings before Verdigris got on the scoreboard in the fifth.
A Bixby error, a pinch-hit double by Harvey Ervin and a walk to Shane Hnatusko loaded the bases for the Cardinals. With two outs, Weber stroked his second hit of the game — an RBI single to right to make it a 7-1 game.
Ervin would score on a wild pitch while Hnatusko tallied Verdigris’ final run when Justin Payne drew a bases-loaded walk.
The Cardinals finished with four hits and committed four errors in the final three innings.
“We’re putting kids in different situations this summer,” Guinn said.
He hopes this approach will help build depth and return Verdigris, the Class 3A champ in 2002, to the eight-team state tournament field.
The Cardinals have qualified for state in four of the past five years. Besides its crown in 2002, Verdigris advanced to the semifinals in 2005.
BIXBY 7, VERDIGRIS 3
Verdigris 000 03 — 3
Bixby 121 30 — 7
Weber, Haggard (3), Worley (4), J. Matthews and Payne. Williams, Poplin (4), Hanus (5) and Bell, Williams (4). W — Williams. L — Weber.