The Edmond Sun

Sports

May 15, 2012

North’s Welch was ready to take the mound

TULSA — Edmond North was closing in on its upset of Yukon in Friday night’s Class 6A baseball state semifinals when Huskies coach Karl King approached senior pitcher Tyler Welch and said, “If we win this, can you be ready to go tomorrow?”

King didn’t really have to ask. He knew the answer. It was Welch who handcuffed Southmoore in a 7-1 “if necessary” regional tournament victory a week earlier. Welch had watched as Kyle Stephens stopped No. 2-ranked Owasso in the first round on five hits, 4-2. He had watched Friday as Garrett Molinsky had eliminated No. 4 Yukon, 4-1, giving up just five hits.

“I was a little nervous when the game started,” Welch said after most of the celebrating and picture taking had ended at ORU’s Johnson Stadium Saturday evening. “But the guys just kept making big plays behind me — A.J. (Leingang) at second base, and those great catches by Chase (right fielder Gibson) when I needed some help.”

In three state tournament games against three of the top rated teams in 6A, North pitching gave up just three runs and 12 hits. That’s three teams with a combined record of 95-16 without the losses to North.

Welch shut down and shut out the defending big school kings on just two hits — facing the minimum in six of the seven innings. There weren’t any opportunities for late-inning hysteria. It was the second straight year that the 6A title game was a shutout — last year by Broken Arrow’s Archie Bradley, who’s now playing pro ball.

“I wasn’t nervous at the start of the seventh,” Welch said. “By then, we were rolling.”

The senior right-hander (6-4) struck out three and walked just two. Broken Arrow left only one runner on base after having three runners thrown out. When the Tigers (35-5) did hit the ball hard, it was almost always right at a Husky — or close enough that the outfielders could catch up and make the catch.

Welch was born on Sept. 3, 1993. That was just about the time that North High School opened in Edmond (officially, May of that year, with its first graduating class in 1994). Edmond High School won the state big school baseball titles in 1992 and 1993, Westmoore took it in 1994 and Norman prevailed in 1995. Ironically, Broken Arrow won its first championship in 1991.

Starting with Tahlequah in 1996, the big school state champ each year had been from the eastern half of the state … emphasis on had been. Those who kept predicting that “this was the year” the streak would end, probably were not putting much money on North this year. The Huskies (24-15) were fourth in their district.

But there they were Saturday, piling on top of Welch after he got the final out on an infield grounder. Players, fans and coaches had tears in their eyes. Their dream had become reality.

Welch admitted this would be one Monday when he would be anxious to go to school. “I’m looking forward to going back to school and letting everyone know we have started a baseball tradition at North.”

With his last interview ending, Welch had one more thing to say. “I want to give a ‘shout out’ to our PO staff: Kyle Stephens, Jeff Stanley and Jordan Belew. I have to give thanks to each of them for all they did for me.”

And as he walked back into the dugout, one of his teammates told him, “Not a bad job of pitching, Tyler.”

No, it was not.

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