Those four letters hold a special meaning to the 2013 Verdigris Cardinals baseball team.
For the past two seasons, the Cardinals have used ‘W.T.L.G.’ as their motivation toward building a baseball dynasty.
Inside the dugout — from March to May — these Cardinals believe in ‘Winning The Last Game’.
For this year’s senior class — led by outfielder Tanner Smith and shortstop/pitcher Blake Battenfield, Verdigris has produced back-to-back state championships in Class 3A.
In 2012, the Cardinals rallied to beat Metro Christian, 6-5 for their second state championship and finished the season with a 30-4 overall record.
In 2011, the Cardinals rolled past Eufaula, 8-2 to claim the 3A state championship and recorded a 32-8 overall record.
Under the leadership of head coach Brian Keith and assistant coach Scott Smith, the Cardinals’ baseball program has produced a two-year overall recorded of 62-12.
The senior class gears up for their final season, looking to bring a 3-peat back to Verdigris.
For Smith and Battenfield, and the other seniors, the diamond is where dreams come true.
On Saturday, the road toward the 3-peat starts for this experienced group of Cardinals.
With Battenfield and Ryan Skalnik still chasing those title dreams on the basketball court in the 3A Area Tournament, the Cardinals will open the season against Nowata without their ace pitcher/shortstop and starting third baseman.
Smith, however, returns for his fourth year in center field, and will be looked upon for leadership and ‘pop’ in the Cardinals’ lineup.
Blessed with blazing speed, Smith provides the Cardinals with a potent weapon in the outfield.
Also, sharing time in the outfield will be senior Ryan Hurd and senior J.W. Owens.
Hurd and Smith helped spark the Cardinals’ football team to the second-round of the Class 3A state playoffs and a 10-2 overall record.
Smith amassed 2,282 rushing yards and scored 31 touchdowns as the Cardinals’ four-year starting tailback.
This season, the Cardinals’ infield will consist of Skalnik at third base, Battenfield at shortstop, Kale Keith at second base and Mitch Hammack at first base.
Behind the plate, sophomore Riley Kelzor and Hammack will share catching duties.
The 2013 Cardinals roster includes: Blake Battenfield, SS, Sr., Gabe Rodery, 1B/OF/LHP, Fr., Ryan Hurd, OF/RHP, Sr., Ryan Skalnik, 3B/RHP, Jr., Reece Phillips, OF/RHP, Soph., Mitch Hammack, 1B/C/RHP, Soph., Nathan Green, OF, Soph., Trey Weiesnbach, OF/C/RHP, Fr., Riley Kelzor, C/1B/RHP, Soph., Nathan Nadal, OF, Fr., Kale Keith, 2B/OF/RHP, Soph., Blake Stone, 3B/1B/OF, Soph., Caleb Ayers, 2B, Soph., Tanner Smith, OF/RHP, Sr., Trevor Moyer, 1B/OF/LHP, Fr., J.W. Owens, OF/RHP, Sr., Dalton Turner, OF, Fr., Sam Hill, 1B/RHP/C, Soph. and Peyton Battenfield, 2B/RHP, Fr.
Verdigris opens baseball season Saturday against Nowata
When Claremore’s Matt Whatley takes his place behind the plate tonight in the Oklahoma Coaches Association Large School East-West All-State baseball game, the former Zebra catcher will be right at home.
Whatley, who started four years as the catcher for the Zebras, finds his final high school baseball game taking place in his future college ballpark.
Last November, Whatley and his long-time friend, Bryce Howe, signed NCAA Division I baseball scholarships to play for the Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles.
Tonight, those dreams come true for Whatley and Jenks outfielder Cadon Owens, who will be joining his former Bearcats teammate on the East squad. Also, Verdigris' Ryan Skalnik will start at third base for the Large East All-State team.
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