|Oklahoma's Premier Summer Baseball Program||Tuesday, June 30, 2015|
Despite a wealth of new faces, the 2005 Travelers continued to rewrite the record books, becoming the first squad in the team's 41-year history to win a World Series title --- the Elite Amateur World Series in Austin, TX.
That championship culminated a sensational campaign in which the young squad battled through a tough start to the season and eventually became another one of the program's most decorated squads ever.
And they did it in typical Traveler fashion, rallying through the loser's bracket to win the Series with three consecutive triumphs on the final day in Austin.
The team's final 62-13 record was the fourth-best winning percentage in club history (.827) and took the program's all-time win total up to 2,249 victories. The team also had another tremendous year in tournament competition (35-7). The team was also brilliant on their home field (23-4) and was even tougher in night games (23-2).
Unlike recent seasons, this Traveler club got off to a bit off a slow start, dropping three of their first eight contests. But the team quickly caught fire after that, posting victories in 14 of 15 games from June 3rd through June 16th, including a title in the rain-shortened Traveler Shootout.
After taking it on the chin in three of their final four contests in the Annual Tony Andenucio Tournament in Colorado, the Travelers returned to Oklahoma and went on a tear through the competition.
A 5-1 record in a round-robin event at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater was followed by the most impressive run of the entire season. From June 25th through July 8th, the Travelers won 18 consecutive games, including a perfect 8-0 march through the always-tough Olde South Plains Tournament.
It was the second straight year the team won the Olde South Plains event in Midwest City. The most impressive part was that the final three victories came against the team's top rivals over the last several seasons: Burkburnett, Midwest City's Outlaws and the Edmond Stars.
After dropping two of a four-game series with the Canadian County Boomers, the Travelers once again found their winning combination just in time for the Annual Route 66 Classic. And for the third time in the past four years, they took home the title from perennially the toughest tournament they play in all season, going 7-1 with a 5-2 win over the Topeka Stars in the finals.
That may have been an omen for things to come as third-year standout Jordy Mercer notched two pitching victories in less than 36 hours to lead the title drive. He would pull a similar feat in the World Series.
The Travelers then went to Tulsa, winning four of five games in a tough ORU Classic, including a sensational 2-0 thriller over one of the region's top teams, the Midwest Nationals.
Returning to the World Series in the suburbs of Austin for the second straight year, the club were convincing winners in their first five contests before dropping a 5-4 verdict to the Texas Apaches in the winner's bracket final. That set up a long three-game route through the loser's bracket in the 100-plus degree heat, something the 2004 Travelers couldn't accomplish.
The 2005 Travelers were able to pull off the trifecta, knocking off New Braunfels, 8-5, before run-ruling the Apaches, 9-0, to force a final battle in which the Travelers prevailed 2-1 behind a second straight complete-game pitching performance from Mercer, who along with hitting standout Rebel Ridling were selected as tournament MVPs.
The 2005 team were led by two of the program's most talented players ever -- three-year standouts Jordy Mercer and Rebel Ridling, the club's Co-MVPs for the season.
That duo exemplified Traveler dedication and determination while helping lead the way to an incredible 184-41 record during their 3-year careers at Elk City. They will each carry those talents over to the diamond at Oklahoma State University this coming season.
Taloga, OK | Shortstop
Mercer was a constant in the lineup and a rock defensively for the Travelers over the past three years. His sensational range and unrivaled hands on the infield, live arm on the pitching mound and offensive prowess in the two-hole will be impossible to replace in 2006.
Jordy increased his numbers at the plate every year, evidenced by his average which went from .255 to .388 and then to .432 this season, second only to Ridling in that category, while also posting 96 hits, 24 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 43 RBI. He also led the team in runs scored with 79 (highest total ever since team moved to Elk City).
Despite limited mound time because of his defensive prowess at shortstop, Mercer made the most of his pitching duties, leading the squad with seven complete games in 11 starts, including three shutouts. He finished the season 9-1 with a 2.46 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning.
In his three-year career with the Travelers, Mercer compiled a career .367 average with 216 hits, 130 RBI, 54 doubles and 174 runs scored. He is arguably the best defensive shortstop in Traveler history, which is saying something considering Monty Fariss and Ryan Minor came before him.
In three seasons Jordy amassed 450 defensive assists against just 37 errors (and 18 of those came in his rookie season). He has 156 assists each of the past two seasons, ranking him 5th in the single season record books.
He also notched a career 16-1 record on the mound.
Jordy was drafted in the 26th round of the Major League Draft last June by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he opted for college, signing with OSU.
With his size and tools at shortstop, Mercer could potentially be the next Traveler to make his way to the big leagues (if Rebel or several other alums already in pro ball don't beat him to it).
Sentinel, OK | 1st Base
Ridling proved to be a pleasant surprise addition to the lineup, because the coaches hadn't even planned on having him back for another year until the last minute.
He graduated high school at 17 years of age and was eligible to come back last summer after a monster freshman year at Midland Junior College. But it seemed Rebel was on his way to play summer ball in a college league in Canada. At the last minute, he changed his mind and returned for a third season with the Travelers.
It couldn't have worked out better for Rebel or the team. His goal was to get a Division-I scholarship rather than return to juco ball for his sophomore year, and during the summer, OSU saw first hand what a dominant player he was and offered that scholarship. He very well could land a starting spot in his first year with the Cowboys after an impressive fall campaign.
And oh by the way, Rebel also cemented his place as one of the all-time greats in Traveler history with another gargantuan season.
The Sentinel product has been mentioned by Bob Ward as being the best defensive first baseman in club history. He was stellar again in 2005 (notching a team-best .991 fielding percentage). He also effectively caught in a pinch. But his biggest contributions came at the plate, producing one of the most well-rounded seasons in club history.
Rebel batted a team-best .450, which ranks him 10th in the single season team record book. He totaled 100 hits to become just the 20th player in program history to join the 100-hit club.
Ridling also came within a whisker of Monty Kauk's 28-year old team record for doubles in a season (38), finishing the year with 36 two-baggers to go along with 18 homeruns -- easily the most dingers by a Traveler since the move to the cavernous domain of Ackley Park in 2002.
Toss in a team-high 84 runs batted in along with his big numbers from 2003 and 2004, and you have the makings of one of the greatest Travelers to put on the uniform.
Ridling's career offensive numbers put him among the most elite players in the program's 41-year history. In three seasons he racked up 266 hits, 38 homeruns, 217 RBI, 75 doubles and scored 198 runs. His career batting average was .413.
Overall Rebel's 2005 season put his name in several places in the record books: 10th in average (.450), 20th in RBI (84), 2nd in doubles (36), 10th in homeruns (18), 12th in putouts (440).
Elk City, OK | Centerfield
Elk City's Luke Yost was right behind Ridling and Mercer as one of the team's most valuable players of 2005. What made him so valuable was the fact he was virtually the only player on the roster that could play centerfield at an elite level.
So naturally he became the team's "iron man," playing in all 75 games through the course of the year…the only player to accomplish that feat last year and one of the few in team history to pull off such an accomplishment.
He committed just two errors in centerfield for the entire season.
The Clarendon Junior College signee batted .361 with 79 hits while anchoring the lineup in the cleanup spot. Luke displayed a sensational blend of speed and power, finishing second on the club in home runs (9) and RBIs (64) while leading the way with six triples and 13 stolen bases.
Yost had several walk-off homeruns during the season and his most memorable day at the plate was in the Route 66 championship game where he treated the home crowd with two homeruns and a triple to lead the Travelers to a 5-2 victory over Topeka, KS.
Cordell, OK | 2nd Base
Toby Davis moved up from the Shattuck team in 2005. He stepped into the leadoff role in the lineup on day one and never looked back.
Davis, a switch hitter, ignited the offense with a tremendous eye at the plate (which resulted in a team-best 47 walks and a solid .452 on-base percentage) and his power from both sides of the dish. The Cordell product hit .335 for the season and was fourth on the club with 69 hits, including 18 doubles, five triples and five home runs as well as 47 runs batted in.
The Seward County juco signee also pitched in on the mound in the latter part of the season, providing the club a fresh arm down the stretch and produced several key relief appearances, one of which came in World Series elimination action. He was 2-0 with a dandy 1.33 ERA.
His most memorable performance on the mound was one of his first of the season when he took over in the second inning of the Travelers pool game against Topeka in the South Plains tournament. The team was down 3-0, and Toby allowed just one hit in 5 2/3 innings relief, allowing the team to come back and win 4-3.
Piedmont, OK | Pitcher, Outfield
Chance was tagged even before the season began as the next in a long line of outstanding Traveler southpaws on the mound and he did not disappoint.
The Piedmont standout was a mainstay in the starting rotation in his first Traveler campaign, posting a 10-1 record and team-best 2.09 earned run average while working a team-high 67 innings. He yielded just 53 hits, issued only 11 walks and ended with a team-best 75 strikeouts as well.
Deason also proved to be a major weapon at the plate while splitting time between the outfield, first base and designated hitter roles. He hit .377 while slapping 66 hits and 48 RBIs.
Sentinel, OK | Pitcher, Outfield
Rhoades was easily the biggest surprise of the season, rapidly blossoming into a leader on the field and a front of the rotation starter on the mound. He literally got better with every pitch he threw and quickly became a leader in the dugout.
After suffering a season-opening loss on the mound, the fiery go-getter was virtually unbeatable on the mound through most of the season, posting 10 straight victories while wrapping up with a 10-2 pitching record and nifty 2.86 ERA.
He pitched several of the team's biggest games, including a 5-4 victory over Burt Chevrolet in the Traveler Shootout semifinals, a pair of victories over the Edmond Stars in the South Plains tourney (including the championship game win), and an 11-0 shutout win against Burkburnett in the Route 66 finals.
But his biggest game may have been a 2-0 shutout against the Midwest Nationals at the ORU tournament. Levi carved up the Nationals for a complete game win head-up against Bishop Kelley LHP Dallas Keuchel, who is one of the state's top professional prospects.
Levi also proved to be masterful with the bat with an uncanny way to get on base and ignite a rally. He finished with a .416 batting average, 16 runs batted in and tied for a team-high with 13 stolen bases.
Muskogee, OK | Catcher
Hilldale all-stater Jeff Breedlove became a key defensive fixture for the Travelers in his first-ever campaign and the Oklahoma State University signee did not disappoint.
Breedlove did yeoman's work behind the plate most of the season and even stepped in on occasion to play a solid shortstop while posting a .982 fielding percentage.
At the plate, he worked through a big mid-season slump and added some of the most crucial hits of the season in the middle of the order, ending with a .276 average, including 48 hits, 30 of which went for extra bases, and drove in 40 runs.
Fort Cobb, OK | Pitcher
Another returning player that saw limited time as a junior was Fort Cobb's Nate Hammons, who was back to 100-percent on the mound after being sidelined with last summer's elbow surgery.
Hammons led the club in pitching appearances with 19 while nicely shifting from a starter to the team's all-important closer role through the heart of the season. The southpaw posted a 7-4 record with six saves, four complete games and two shutouts while ending the campaign with a 3.24 ERA.
He finished the season on a high note, throwing one of his most impressive games in a 10-3 complete-game win to get the Travelers to the World Series winner's bracket final.
Hammons averaged more than a strikeout per inning and became the second Traveler hurler in as many years (joining Brad Burns) to garner a scholarship from the Oklahoma Sooners by season's end.
Nate (along with Jordy Mercer) was one of two Travelers drafted in the MLB amateur draft. He went in the 32nd round to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Amarillo, TX | Pitcher
Amarillo righthander Tomas Cruz emerged as a top prospect in his first full campaign with the Travelers after spending the 2004 season in Shattuck.
The hard-throwing junior led the club in starts with 12 and notched four complete-game efforts.
Tough luck was the story for Tomas as he took seven no decisions despite several tremendous efforts. He finished with a 5-0 record and 3.40 earned run average while being second on the squad with 59 2/3 innings pitched and should be one of the leaders next season as well as a top college prospect.
Pampa, TX | 3rd Base
Shea Brown was the latest Traveler to come through the Pampa pipeline. He impressed coaches early in tryouts to earn a spot on the team and steadily became a key cog in the lineup with his sensational speed.
Overall, Brown improved more than any other position player throughout the course of the season and was a key to winning the World Series in Austin.
He finished strong, earning All-Tournament honors at the World Series with a slew of timely hits and several huge defensive plays. The slick-fielding infielder hit a solid .333 for the season and posted a crucial .416 on-base percentage and earned himself a scholarship to Clarendon Junior College.
El Reno, OK | Leftfield
El Reno's Drew Wells was another newcomer and got off to a sizzling start to lead the Traveler offense through the early part of the campaign before finishing with a .395 batting average (fourth highest on the team).
His most impressive stretch came in the Pueblo Tournament in Colorado where he virtually lifted the offense on his shoulder, collecting 17 hits in six games to earn All-Tournament honors.
The talent-laden lefty, who signed with Cowley County Junior College, totaled 58 hits and drove in 41 runs while becoming a mainstay in leftfield.
Mangum, OK | Pitcher
Connors State signee Jason Stover from Mangum settled into a slot in the regular pitching rotation through the heart of the season as he harnessed an overpowering fastball.
When he was on, Stover could shutdown opponents as well as any pitcher on the staff. He contributed a 4-0 record and 3.33 ERA with three complete game efforts in 42 innings of work. He averaged a strikeout per inning.
Jason's best performance of the season came in the final game of pool play in the Route 66 tournament where he beat Ace Baseball Academy of Amarillo 2-1, matched up against their ace pitcher. He allowed five hits and struck out seven to advance the Travelers to the semifinals.
El Reno, OK | Pitcher
Crafty righthander Mike Cullen gave the Traveler coaches a versatile pitching asset out of the bullpen most of the season, thanks to his ability to consistently throw strikes with a wicked curveball.
Mike contributed a 6-1 mound record and 4.02 earned run average pitching primarily out of the bullpen. He notched one of the team's wins at Pueblo, 10-9 over Merced, CA and shutout the Burkburnett Bandits 9-0.
Cullen eventually parlayed his summer work into a chance to play at USAO in Chickasha where he had a solid fall season.
El Reno, OK | Catcher
El Reno senior Chris Gulickson gave the squad a sensational defensive presence behind the plate and did a solid job controlling the game when stepped in to give Breedlove a rest.
He hit just .160 for the season but showed enough ability with the glove to walk-on at Western junior college where he eventually earned a scholarship for the spring semester.
Leedey, OK | Rightfield
After seeing limited action in his first campaign a year ago (at the age of 15), Broadbent moved into a regular slot in the order while showing his versatility with strong play in the outfield most of the season.
Jared, coming back after a knee injury last fall, battled a long slump throughout the middle of the season and finished with a .276 average with 34 hits and 31 runs batted in.
He has since had a stellar fall season at Leedey High School and has already piqued the interest of pro and college scouts in the area with his size and potential behind the plate as a catcher -- the position he was focusing on before the knee injury.
He should be a middle of the order hitter and one of the key pieces to the 2006 and 2007 Traveler teams.
Taloga, OK | Pitcher
With an abundance of big-game experience already under his belt, it didn't take Taloga righthander Brent Miller long to make an impact.
The 16-year-old made his debut in the season opener, notching a game-ending strikeout with the bases loaded to preserve a one-run victory over Byng. He then followed with a three-hit complete game shutout of Edmond Memorial en route to a 6-0 record and 4.49 ERA for the season.
Miller worked most of his first summer in relief duty, but should be ready to step into a frontline starter spot in 2006 and has the potential to blossom into one of Oklahoma's top pitching prospects in the class of 2007.
Leedey, OK | 2nd Base
In his first Traveler season, the 16-year-old Cole provided some crucial hits early in the year while some of the veterans were gone for senior trips.
Cole showed a quality bat from the left side of the plate along with a lethal drag bunt. He notched a .333 average with 18 hits and 10 RBIs and should capably move into a much more extensive role in 2006.
El Reno, OK | Utility
El Reno sophomore Joe Halley was another sophomore that displayed a big upside early on. He showed versatility with the ability to play either infield or outfield and was another solid lefthanded hitter, finishing with a .300 average, including 15 hits in 50 at-bats while learning the ropes of the Traveler program.
Wynnewood, OK | Pitcher
Duane Betts was the program's first ever player from Wynnewood. The 16-year-old saw limited action in an already packed pitching rotation, but his raw stuff was enough to already catch the eye of several scouts in the area.
The southpaw looked promising when his number was called, posting a 2-1 record and 2.74 earned run average, striking out more than one batter per inning. With more experience, he has the potential to work his way up the rotation, and with his large frame and overpowering stuff, could become one of the state's top prospect over the next two summers.
Elk City, OK | 2nd Base
One key component the Travelers went most of the year without was Elk City senior Keith McInnerney who injured his shoulder in high school ball prior to the summer season.
Mac exploded onto the scene in 2004 and was expected to be one of the team's top players in 2005 before the injury. Instead he spent the summer rehabilitating his surgically repaired shoulder, but his reputation from last year's team still garnered him a scholarship offer from North Central Junior College in Gainesville, TX where he is having a fine first year to his college career.
Keith did eventually return to the lineup last summer -- at the World Series -- and didn't seem to miss a beat, posting seven hits in 16 at-bats for a .438 batting average.
See you in 2006!
Overall, the program graduated 12 players in August of 2005 with four going on to Division-I schools and eight heading off to Division-II or juco schools.
Those players added another sparkling chapter to Traveler baseball and their stories will be told on many van rides throughout the years. They will always be Travelers and we wish them the best of luck in the next step of their careers.
As for those returning next year and all of the other potential Travelers of 2006…we'll see you the first Sunday in April…Ackley Park…2pm sharp.
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