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2006 Season Wrap Up:
Travelers win 'Nuch for first time since the Minor brothers
Oklahoma Travelers | December 31st, 2006
Despite having a small group of returning players -- inluding just two returning starters from the 2005 team -- the 2006 squad put together another outstanding season and became just the second team in the program's history to win the coveted Tony Andenucio tournament in Pueblo, CO.
The season finished on a high note as well with a third place finish in the BEST League World Series in Fort Myers, Florida, where the Travelers got to play its final games at the beautiful City of Palms Stadium, which is the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.
The Travelers got off to a fast start in '06, winning 22 of its initial 23 games of the year and ultimately finished with a 54-14 (.794) record. It was the the club's sixth straight season of more than 50 victories. That mark also increased the squad's all-time win total to 2,303 in 42 years, an average of nearly 55 victories per season.
It was also the third straight season in which the Travelers had at least one player selected in the MLB Draft as team co-MVP Chance Deason was selected in the 39th round by the Padres. Deason was one of nine graduating seniors on the 2006 Traveler roster, all of which received college scholarships.
The team's fast start included nine straight wins to open the season, including six straight victories to capture the Midwest City Memorial Day Tournament championship. The run included a 15-5 run-rule triumph over defending American Legion national champ Enid and one of the most impressive pitching performances of the entire season when Deason fanned 16 batters in his initial start of the season, a 9-5 victory against perennial power Midwest City Outlaws.
A 5-1 run through the abbreviated Traveler Shootout added another title before making the annual journey to Pueblo, Colorado for the Tony Andenucio Classic. The Andenucio tournament (or "Nuch" as it is called) has always been a special tournament to the Traveler program. The Travelers are the only team to have played in all 27 annual tournaments since 1980, but have often times been snake-bit at Pueblo. The program boasted just one 'Nuch title in 26 years, coming back in 1991 when future big leaguers Ryan and Damon Minor played. Things didn't start out well again in 2006. After suffering back-to-back losses on the tournament's opening day, the Travelers put things together in winning three straight games to reach the semifinals. Ben Hayes then twirled a five-hit gem to beat powerful Farmington, New Mexico, 9-1, setting up a rematch with rival Cherry Creek for the title.
Deason, the tournament MVP, once again rose to the occasion, tying the game with a two-run double in the fifth for one of his game-high three hits prior to finishing with three innings of one-hit pitching relief in the 8-3 come-from-behind victory.
The team returned home for a three-game sweep of Duncan and split a road double-header with Mustang before heading into a wild Olde South Plains Classic in Midwest City. In the tournament opener, the Travelers were in danger of getting run-ruled, falling behind the Spivey All Stars, 10-3, in the fourth before mounting one of the greatest comebacks in team history. Pitcher Clint Maune came in to silence the Spivey offense with four frames of no-hit relief and the Travelers offense answered, eventually tying the game on a Kyle Hutton double in the sixth and won it 11-10 with a Blake Watson RBI single.
The squad followed with another rugged 8-7 come-from-behind win over the Connie Mack power Lubbock Hubbers and then had to erase a six-run fifth inning deficit to defeat the Lawton Colonels, 14-10. A pair of two-run singles from Joe Halley keyed the comeback.
Because of a scheduling miscue, the Travelers were forced to face Lubbock again in the tournament quarterfinals, this time dropping an 8-5 decision which started only the second three-game losing skid of the season as they fell to the Outlaws in both games of a twinbill three days later.
The Travelers rebounded by winning six of eight games in a three-day span heading into the annual Route 66 Classic, where they notched seven consecutive victories to reach the finals of their own tournament for an unprecedented fifth straight year. The team dug itself into a big hole early against Midwest City in the final, before rallying late. The comeback bid ultimately fell just short against the Outlaws, 9-7, for a runner-up finish.
That set the stage for the Travelers' trek to Florida to meet up with some of the top select teams east of the Mississippi in the BEST League World Series. The team went 2-1 in pool play to garner the third seed heading into double-elimination bracket competition. The Travelers rode three straight pitching gems from Ben Hayes, Brent Miller and Tomas Cruz to wins over Team Connecticut, the Louisiana Red All-Stars and Indiana's U.S. Athletic to reach the winner's bracket finale.
After gaining an early lead over the powerful Louisiana Blue All-Stars -- a team the Travelers had defeated earlier in pool play -- the Travelers saw the momentum slip away during an 18-hour rain delay and fell 4-3. They then were eliminated with a third place finish in a 7-1 loss to eventual champ Dulin Dodgers (Tennessee). Interestingly, the top three teams -- Travelers, Louisiana Blue and Dulin -- all came from the same four team pool to begin the tournament.
Traveler all-tournament selections were pitchers Brent Miller and Tomas Cruz, shortstop Randy Henry and first baseman Jordan Troxell. On a side note, we also learned on the sands of Fort Myers Beach that the 2006 team could've made a pretty good professional beach volleyball team as well.
As is always the case, the 2006 team was made up of a terrific collection of young men. There was never a shortage of laughter or good times. Below are the players that made the 43rd season of Traveler baseball a smashing success.
The 2006 team was led by two outstanding lefthanders -- Chance Deason and Jordan Troxell. Deason was the pitching ace along with providing a potent bat in the middle of the order, while Troxell anchored the lineup in the three-hole and was the latest in a long line of superior Traveler first basemen.
While making seven starts, Deason was also a key contributor in relief to finish with a 7-2 mound record in a team-leading 57 innings of work. He also posted a team-high 68 strikeouts.
Hitting-wise, the Piedmont graduate picked up right where he left off in 2005, upping his season average to .421, including 20 extra-base hits and 41 RBI. His 32-10 walk-to-strikeout ratio was best on the team. In two seasons with the team, Chance went 17-3 on the mound with a 1.98 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 124 innings pitched.
The 'D-Unit' was a 39th round draft-and-follow selection of the San Diego Padres and had several Division I offers but elected to begin his career at Eastern Junior College, where he has had an outstanding start to his college career.
While hitting .441 for the season, Troxell, a line-drive hitting machine, didn't rack up the homerun total of Ridling (just two homers), but he was one of the most clutch hitters in recent Traveler history, wearing out the spacious gaps at Ackley Park for a team-high 22 doubles. He also drove in 56 and struck out only 19 times in 161 official at-bats while also leading the club in defensive putouts (318) and fielding percentage (.980).
Troxell signed early with Western Junior College, following in his father's footsteps but could be in line for much bigger things with his clutch-hitting capabilities from the left side of the plate.
Cole was not your normal nine-hole, however (where he hit most of the season for the Travelers), and many opponents found out the hard way with his multiple multi-hit games helping spark the offensive attack the entire summer. For the season, the Leedey High School standout hit .417 with 50 hits and 27 runs batted in. That was a dramatic increase of 84 points in batting average in just one year.
He also became a leader by example on the team, always willing to do whatever was needed on the field, on the bases or at the plate to help advance his team towards victory.
While the odds and possibly a little fatigue (he played in a team-high 62 games) caught up with him down the stretch, Nine definitely caught the eye of numerous college and professional scouts alike, finishing with a .398 batting average and team-highs in hits (78), runs (68), triples (6), walks (40) and stolen bases (15). The switch-hitting leadoff hitter also tied for fourth on the club with 41 RBI, was third in home runs with four and second in doubles with 21.
Defense might have been Nine's greatest attribute where he routinely was able to run down balls from gap-to-gap in the outfield with relative ease. Oklahoma State University took note quickly with a fall scholarship offer. He could, however, get drafted in the June MLB Draft and opt to sign prior to college, according to some pro scouts.
By mid-season Gelnar was a regular in the lineup and even moved into the heart of the order by season's end. He batted .396 with 40 hits (10 for extra bases) and 17 RBI.
Gelnar was one of the state's top runningbacks in prep football last year as well. He has caught most of his career, but has been learning the ropes in the outfield to better showcase (and preserve) his speed, which along with his short, compact stroke at the plate could make him a high-value target for colleges in the summer of 2007.
Broadbent hit .375 while batting in the heart of the order throughout the campaign. He collected 63 hits, an amazing 31 of which went for extra bases with his tremendous power. He banged out 15 doubles, five triples and team-high 11 home runs while driving in a team-best 57 runs. His .720 slugging percentage was best on the team.
Jared has remarkably rare power to the opposite field for a young right-handed hitter and is blessed with a superb frame and speed to burn. It was that total package that caught the eye of Oklahoma State University, who made Broadbent an early signee last fall.
In his two-plus seasons with the Travelers, Cruz got better and better with every start and it showed. He compiled a 12-1 record, including seven complete games in 22 starts and a dynamite 2.62 ERA over the course of two seasons and was basically considered an ace of the staff by the end of 2006.
The righthander follows a solid line of former Traveler hurlers on to Seward County College in Kansas and is expected to immediately be near the top of the rotation for the Dragons.
Brent finished 9-2 with a 2.67 earned run average and was second on the club with 55 innings pitched. The Taloga High School standout posted a team-leading strikeout-to-walk ratio of 55-to-15 and appeared in the second most games of any pitcher on the squad.
With a 15-2 record in his first two campaigns, expectations are high for Miller to be right at the top of the staff as well as being a top college prospect in 2007.
Facing off against other team's aces much of the year, the Sentinel righthander registered a 5-5 record and 4.65 ERA. He fired two complete games and averaged just under a strikeout per inning. At the plate, Rhoades batted .329 with 21 runs scored and 11 RBI while adding eight stolen bases.
Levi should be able to translate his bulldog-type mound mentality into great success in college, signing to begin his career at Eastern Junior College in Wilburton.
The heir apparent to replace Mercer going into the season was the 16-year-old Henry, but coaches weren't sure if the youngster would be able to handle the pressure of the position. The coaches quickly learned they had little reason to worry.
Henry performed as well as any starting 16-year old player ever has for the Travelers. In fact, he eclipsed nearly every one of Mercer's offensive marks at the same age and was as solid with the glove in his first year with the team, all the while drawing rave early reviews from college coaches.
The Arnett High School youngster hit a very respectable .311 in his first Traveler campaign, starting 58 of the club's 68 games in the process while also joining the squad's exclusive 100-assist club with 104 for the season. He notched 46 hits, 38 runs scored and 25 RBI. Toss in a 3.00 ERA and one save in six relief appearances on the mound, and it was a brilliant start to his Traveler career.
His four complete games led the team while he also had a hand in three of the best pitching efforts of the entire season in shutouts over the Wichita Gators (twice) and Play Ball Sports from Littleton, Colorado. Chase also turned in a gutsy performance against possibly the best opposing lineup of the season, an 8-7 victory over the Lubbock Hubbers in the Olde South Plains tournament.
The Connors State signee finished with a 5-1 record and 3.28 earned run average and also added key contributions at the plate with a .316 batting average, 24 hits and 14 runs batted in to go along with 14 stolen bases, which was second on the team.
The 17-year-old El Reno High School product rode that early success to a .323 average for the season, which included 52 hits (fifth on the squad), 48 runs (fourth on the squad) and 41 RBI (tied for fourth most on the squad).
Halley's versatility, baseball intelligence, plus glove and strong arm allowed him to play everyday at either third base, shortstop or second base and showed coaches what they could look forward to in 2007.
Patric proved unflappable under pressure and was a vital key to the success of the team. He was a regular out of the pen with his fearless approach and assortment of off-speed deliveries. He led the team in pitching appearances with 19 and made just one start, albeit maybe the most important start of the entire season against Cherry Creek in the finals of the Andenucio tournament in Pueblo.
The Lookeba-Sickles product posted a 4-0 record and tied for the team lead with three saves en route to a 3.40 earned run average. He also struck out 23 and walked only eight in 37 innings of work. Offensively, Patric hit a tough-luck .179 for the year with numerous balls hit right at opposing defenders. He also starred at catcher, where he has terrific potential with a big frame, smooth feet and an incredibly accurate arm.
Tolentino is expected to feed of his first year success and a sensational fall and be one of the club's stalwarts as an 18-year-old in 2007 on the mound and behind the plate.
Hayes tied for the team lead in starts with 10, three of which went for complete games and one for a shutout (as well as several near misses). He notched a 7-1 record and 2.10 earned run average, including allowing less than a hit per inning. Big Ben also had a big bat, but he didn't get to use it much on this team. He popped a monster homerun in just six at-bats and could have been an excellent offensive player if it weren't for the fact that his future is on the mound.
Ben had several college offers but chose to pursue his pitching career at Eastern Junior College along with Traveler teammates Deason and Rhoades.
Maune seemingly improved in almost every appearance, whether it be a start or tough relief assignment out of the bullpen. The El Reno lefty finished with a 5-1 record and 3.10 ERA and had the squads best strikout-to-inning ratio with 46 K's in 38 1/3 frames of work.
An early fall signee with Wichita State University, Maune has the frame and potential to be another Traveler draft selection in 2007 and could emerge as the ace of next year's mound staff.
There wasn't a bigger smile on the team than Blake's and there wasn't a bigger sparkplug on the team than his bat, which provided numerous clutch hits during the course of the season, including several in pinch hit roles to help spark victorious rallies. The second Traveler ever from Lawton Eisenhower was one of the hottest hitters on the squad at the close of the season, ending with a .329 average and a very productive 29 RBI on his 27 hits.
Blake was one of the team's most valuable players in the final three weeks of the season and his emergence helped garner a scholarship offer to Cameron University, where he is expected to be a major contributor immediately for the up-and-coming Aggie program.
The second Traveler ever from Westmoore (following Noah Booth of 2002), Marr hit .307 while hitting in the middle of the order throughout the year but it was his power that provided the offensive spark in many games. He belted 14 doubles, four triples and was second on the team in home runs with five. His 49 RBI was good enough for third-best on the squad.
Defensively, the soft-spoken Marr let his arm do the talking. He was tops on the team in outfield assists, helping garner a scholarship to Rose State College where he should be a starter in his first campaign.
With the team losing 10-3 to the Spivey All Stars in the Olde South Plains tournament -- and the lineup getting mowed down by the opposing lefthanded pitcher -- the coaches emptied the lineup of its lefthanded hitters and inserted all righties, including Hutton. He promptly made the decision a brilliant one by collecting a pair of hits, including a game-tying RBI double off the top of the fence in an 11-10 triumph over the Spivey All Stars.
Kyle hit .167 for the season but soaked up a lot of baseball knowledge in one season with the team. He parlayed that experience into a scholarship offer to Clarendon Junior College. He eventually enrolled and currently plays baseball at East Central in Ada.
For the second straight season, Betts was overpowering at times with 33 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings (second best on the team in that department). With such a large build, the lefthanded prospect could have a bright future in the sport with more innings and continued development on the hill.
Despite being the youngest player on the roster (and having to hear jokes about it all season from his teammates), Cook made six appearances during the course of the season, including a pair of starts while notching a 1-0 record and 3.73 earned run average. His 19 strikeouts in 15 innings of work was one of the top ratios on the entire squad.
Cook has terrific size already and is expected to fill out even more. The Amarillo High School product has as big an upside as just about any young pitcher in the Traveler organization in the past several years.
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