Jake Gilmore hadn’t played baseball for about five years before trying out earlier this spring.
After playing the sport for most of his childhood up to seventh grade, he simply became burned out. Football was his true passion, and he understandably wanted to focus his efforts on improving on the gridiron.
Most of his social circle played baseball, but whenever he began feeling an urge to join his friends on the diamond once more, something seemed to get in the way.
Gilmore suffered a broken femur during the early stages of his junior football season, and given the long recovery period for such an injury, he had no option but to miss out on both sports.
He made it through last football season unscathed, though, and after some convincing from his friends, he became part of the Zebras baseball family.
He’s glad he did.
“I got to enjoy the fun time with my friends, and it helped me get back to where I needed to,” Gilmore said. “I enjoyed it a lot.”
Despite being new to varsity baseball, Gilmore more than exceeded expectations.
Behind a .452 batting average and a .464 slugging percentage, Gilmore was named to the OBCA All-State roster.
The recent Claremore graduate competed in the inaugural large-school OBCA All-State game at David Allen Memorial Ballpark in Enid on Sunday, representing the eastern half of the state.
Although he went 0-for-2 at the plate and his team lost to the West, 2-1, Gilmore said it was a fun experience.
“The pitching was phenomenal,” Gilmore said. “It was the best pitchers in Oklahoma, and I liked the tough competition. Everybody you’re up against is the best in the state, and that was the fun part for me.”
Claremore coach Jim Sherl said most of the footwork and athletic skills Gilmore picked up from football translated to baseball, so it didn’t take him long to get the hang of things.
That helped not only his defense in the outfield, but also his base-running ability.
“I think we averaged 11 runs a game this year, and I believe he led us in average,” Sherl said. “His on-base percentage (.535) was unbelievable. And when he got on, he’s fast, and he was tied for our lead in stolen bases.”
Gilmore has no plans to play collegiately at this time.
SHERL'S BUSY SCHEDULE
Sherl couldn’t believe his untimely bad luck.
A ticket to the biggest Bedlam softball matchup in history was waiting for him across town, but other responsibilities were threatening his attendance.
Mackenzie Thomas, a Claremore softball product, was Oklahoma State’s starting catcher, and he wanted nothing more than to be there in support of his former pupil in the Women’s College World Series.
He had to complete his coaching duties in the Oklahoma Sunbelt Classic first, though.
Easier said than done.
Despite having two early games in Oklahoma City with his Oklahoma White team, which featured the Zebras’ Brooks Sherl, Noah Smallwood and Ethan Grimett, Sherl experienced some delays.
Oologah’s Devin Holmes and Justin Ramsey played for the Oklahoma Royal team.
“For the second game (scheduled for 3:30 p.m.), we got to the field 45 minutes early, but they were an hour behind schedule,” coach Sherl said. “So really, we were an hour and 45 minutes behind schedule.”
Even with Bedlam’s start time set for 8:30 p.m., the chances of coach Sherl making it to USA Hall of Fame Stadium for first pitch were looking slim.
That’s when things began looking up for the coach.
The game, consisting of seven innings, lasted less than an hour and a half, giving him just enough time to make the crosstown drive.
“I didn’t get a chance to go back to the hotel to take a shower, so I changed clothes in my truck,” coach Sherl said. “It’s a 20-minute drive to the stadium, but it was much longer because of traffic. Then I had to park a long way from the stadium, so it was a pretty good walk to the field.”
He finally arrived at the stadium during the seventh inning of the Arizona-UCLA game, which pushed Bedlam’s start time back about 35 minutes.
That allowed coach Sherl to enjoy the entirety of Bedlam, though Thomas and the Cowgirls went on to lose, 6-1.
“I found Mackenzie’s parents and family because they were waiting outside to go in, so I got to catch up with them for a few minutes,” coach Sherl said. “I had really good seats, and I got to talk to Mackenzie just briefly before the game.”
Thomas is the first player Sherl has coached, whether baseball or softball, who has played in a College World Series.
Thomas transferred to Claremore from Sequoyah before her junior year of high school in 2014, forcing her to sit out of varsity action that season.
However, coach Sherl took on a mentor role for Thomas, helping to mold her into the player she is today.
Although Thomas graduated from Claremore three years ago, her relationship with coach Sherl remains strong.
“We’ve been extremely close, and he’s kept up with me all throughout my career in college,” Thomas said. “I still go see him every time I go home, and he called me to let me know he’d be there (at the WCWS). It’s cool knowing we have that relationship, and that we’ll have that relationship forever.
“I wish my sister (Maddox), she’s a catcher at Claremore, could’ve experienced playing for him because he was awesome to me and my family.”