SEE ALSO: High Schools Teams To Watch
On Thursday, Shawnee (Okla.) High goes for 50.
That is, 50 consecutive wins, dating back to the 2016 season in which Shawnee won 12 straight to end the season, which culminated in an Oklahoma 5A State championship. This season, the Wolves have won 37 in a row to extend that winning streak, and will look to make it an even 50 with a matchup against Durant (Okla.) High on Thursday in the first round of the 2017 Oklahoma 5A state tournament.
That’s not even the most impressive streak that Todd Boyer’s program is looking to extend, as his team will also become state champions for the third straight year with just three more victories.
“I think expectations have always been there for our program,” Boyer said. “This is, I think the 18th time in the last 21 years we've been to our state tournament, so the expectations to get back to a state tournament are there every year in our program.
“But you know, this group this is their fourth straight trip to the state tournament. And so I think they've been able to rely on the experiences that they've had over the previous three seasons.”
Shawnee brings back seven starters from the 2016 state championship team, including four players who have been starting on the varsity team since their freshman season: catcher Jake Taylor, who is committed to Oklahoma State and the leader of the team; shortstop and righthander Tanner Sparks, who leads the team with 12 home runs and 61 strikeouts on the mound, also an Oklahoma State commit; second baseman A.J. Barron, a Seminole State College signee who’s the fiery member of the team; and Eli Davis, a Kansas commit who leads off, plays center field and has also won 29 games for Shawnee on the mound.
“We knew we had a good nucleus coming back,” Boyer said, “and we have some good young kids who are coming up in our program. So we knew the opportunity was in front of us, if we continued to get better . . .
“There's nothing that really comes as a surprise to these guys. They're well prepared and they're a hard-working group. I could never question their work ethic. These are guys who you've got to run out of the facility every day.”
Junior third baseman Kade Self leads the team with a 1.601 OPS, and Boyer said he would have started each season if he didn’t have to sit out as a freshman after transferring to the program. Senior Cole Payne is the laid-back member of the team, a player who doesn’t get as much attention as others who have been mentioned, but consistently gives Shawnee a reliable presence at first and in the lineup.
Shawnee’s perfect season has obviously been a collective effort, but the key to the success very well might be Taylor, who Boyer says is the rock of the ball club.
“You've always got to start with Jake Taylor,” he said. “He's who everybody leans on when things get a little tough. The great thing about Jake is he's not just a great player, he's a great person. He's very level-headed, but he is an extremely hard-working young man both in the classroom and on the field. That's the guy that this group leans on.”
Taylor is hitting .516/.586/.926 this season, with eight home runs, 20 doubles and three triples and is also the team’s top player from an MLB draft perspective. But Shawnee differs from Huntington Beach—our No. 1 team, which just won the Boras Classic—which is constantly talked about through the lens of star players Nick Pratto and Hagen Danner.
There is a focus on the team, as a whole, rather than individual players rising above the rest. It’s captured in the team’s motto, “Lose Yourself,” which used in just about every tweet on Shawnee’s Twitter account.
“Our guys just wanted to come up with something talking about it's not just about one individual, it's about the entire group,” Boyer said. “And so we just felt, to be successful, everyone's going to have to not worry about themselves and lose yourself in the situation and do what's best for the team.
“Not what's best for you individually, but what was best for the team.”
Three more games, and Shawnee will have accomplished the highest achievement for the team, for three straight years.
Four More To Watch
• Archbishop McCarthy High (Southwest Ranches, Fla.). The No. 3 team in our high school rankings gets started in the Florida 6A baseball tournament Tuesday night, with a matchup against Miami Springs (Fla.) High in the regional quarterfinal. Archbishop McCarthy enters the state tournament on a five-game winning streak, including a 4-3 win over American Heritage High (Plantation, Fla.) in the district championship. With a win against Miami Springs, McCarthy could see American Heritage again in the regional semifinal round, and also has a potential matchup with Mosley High (Lynn Haven, Fla.) in the state semifinals if both teams get out of their regions. McCarthy righthander Joe Perez—the No. 75 player on our Top 200 MLB Draft Prospects—returned to the mound last Friday after dealing with shoulder tendinitis and was back in the mid-to-upper 90s with, some guns getting him as high as 99 mph. He’s expected to throw 2-3 innings against Miami Springs, depending on pitch count.
• Parkview High (Lilburn, Ga.). The No. 7 team in our high school rankings, and the top-ranked team out of Georgia, advanced to the Georgia 7A quarterfinals this week after two wins over Colquitt County High (Moultrie, Ga.) last week. Senior lefthander Caleb Mitchell, a Mercer commit, threw all seven innings in a 6-1 win, allowing just three hits and one earned run, while striking out four batters. In the second game, a 4-0 win, junior lefthander Braden Hays threw a seven-inning shutout and also struck out four batters. Hays is committed to Georgia Southern. Mitchell and Hays are both getting the ball again in this week’s quarterfinal matchup with Woodstock (Ga.) High. If they continue to win they could find themselves matched up with No. 19 North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Ga.) High in the semifinals on May 17. North Gwinnett has been ranked as high as No. 4 this season.
• West Monroe (La.) High. The No. 4 team in our high school rankings advanced to the semifinals of the Louisiana 5A tournament this week, after beating Sulpher (La.) High in two games in the quarterfinals. West Monroe has yet to drop a game in the tournament as the No. 1 seed and will play No. 5 seed Zachary (La.) High Friday. Senior righthander Austin Booth struck out eight batters in seven innings of a 9-1 win over Sulpher, while OF/1B Jacob Pearson went 3-for-3 with a home run, double and a walk. Pearson is a Louisiana State commit and the No. 65 prospect on our Top 200 list. He’s the No. 3 prospect out of Louisiana after Blayne Enlow (27) and Alex Lange (32).
• Woodlawn High (Rison, Ark.). The No. 9 team in our high school rankings won the Arkansas 1A Region 5 championship Monday afternoon, beating Taylor (Ark.) High 13-1. With the victory, Woodlawn will advance to the state tournament, which is from May 11-13 and is hosted at Woodlawn’s own field. In Monday’s regional championship victory, the team combined for five home runs, including two from Matthew Aiken and one each from senior Logan Smallwood and juniors Will Richardson and Nick Willis.