ENID, OKLA - Sinclair (Ohio) Community College, making its first-ever NJCAA Division II World Series at David Allan Ballpark is enjoying the ride including weathering the storm, literally, in defeating Mercer County (N.J.) 12-8 Wednesday at David Allen Memorial Ballpark in a game that was suspended from Tuesday night due to rain and delayed again on Wednesday. The win kept the Tartan Pride undefeated in the double-elimination tournament.
However, the rain is hardly ruining the Pride’s fun.
“This has been unbelievable,” said right fielder Tyler Cowles, who has committed to join Ohio State next year. “The first day I came here I was just hoping for a good crowd. I didn't expect this many caring people in this city to show their love of baseball.”
To make it to the first series in school history, the Pride needed to have a little bit of everything necessary to succeed.
Hitting: Sinclair is 10th in the nation in runs scored, ninth in RBI and second in walks.
Pitching: Sinclair has the fifth-lowest ERA in the nation and pitched the second-most shutouts this season.
There is also one other component of the championship formula that my even be the most vital: a team full of characters.
Sinclair has no shortage of that. Like how the Ohio State football team presents a Buckeye sticker for a player’s helmet for every achievement on the field, Sinclair players receive a “Gary” for the same.
“It was kind of like a way to honor my name, I guess,” said shortstop Garrett Carmichael, who is committed to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. “Unfortunately, I had two surgeries that put me out for two seasons.”
“It was unfortunate because he’s a Division I commit and he’s never played an inning for us,” said head coach Steve Dintaman.
Carmichael isn’t the only injured player helping to keep spirits up.
“(Third baseman Alec Turner is) like Ricky Bobby (from ‘Talladega Nights’), who says ‘I’m all jacked up on Mountain Dew!’ and he has his little container and flips it open and it squirts out all over the charter bus,” Carmichael said.
The team brings a palm tree with them to the dugout in every game a source of inspiration.
“It bends, but never breaks, just like our team,” Carmichael said. “We can bend, but as long as we don’t break, we’re good.”
They also keep a toy toilet in the dugout as a symbolic way for players to forget their recent mistakes.
“If you make a bad play in general, you flush it,” Cowles said. “You go to the toilet and flush it and then it’s on to the next pitch. It’s actually next to the helmet bag. So that way if hitters walk back after striking out, they just flush it out and it’s on to the next one.”
Then there is outfielder Daniel O’Keefe who gave himself the nickname “trash can” because of how inept he originally was at fielding. The sophomore entered the series with a .306 average.
“I've gotten pretty good since then,” O’Keefe said.
All of this and more are products of the coaching style of Sinclair head coach Steve Dintaman. There are also signs all across the dugout that say “eliminate the fear, it’s fun” or “what is what if?” to perpetuate words of wisdom to the team at all times.
“He’s big in the mental game,” freshman pitcher Tyler Keith said.
Especially when it comes to focusing on the present.
“We have guys who have drawn clocks on their wristband and it has no time on it,” Dintaman said. “It represents that the time is the present. Live in the present moment. Nothing else matters.”
“It reminds me to stay on that minute and to get back to who I am on the field,” said sophomore infielder Chad Roberts.
The Tartan Pride didn't get this far without some memorable moments along the way.
“When Ben (Myers) hit that walk-off (in the sub-regional round), he had to stop and throw-up, O’Keefe said.
The book on this season is primed to be a bestseller. The only chapter that is left to be written is the ending, but the pages in between should provide plenty of entertainment, whether it ends with a championship celebration remains to be seen.