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June 16, 2014

Heartland Classic on deck

Team Oklahoma filled with area players

NORMAN — Summer baseball in Norman kicks into full swing today.

The Heartland Classic is a seven-team tournament comprised of essentially all-star squads from seven different states. The tournament, organized in part by former NHS baseball coach Pete Sangirardi, plays three days of round-robin competition around Moore and Norman before entering into elimination rounds on Friday and Saturday.

Team Oklahoma will begin play today with a noon game against Maryland at Norman High. They’ll follow that up with a 3:30 p.m. game against team Ohio at Norman North.

Unlike some other summer baseball teams, the Heartland Classic is truly a statewide team. This year’s Oklahoma squad features players from 16 different high schools, all coming together to be coached in the weeklong tournament by Tulsa Union skipper Shawn Newkirk and his staff. Area competitors include several players — Hunter Southerland, Kyle Tyler and DeShawn Lookout — from Westmoore. Moore’s Blake Brewster is also on the squad.

Putting together the team is no small task. Yukon head coach Kevin James leads the effort organize the team, and he worked with Sangirardi to field a roster from the recommendations made by coaches statewide. That led them to the current 19-player roster as well as to Newkirk, who will be making his first appearance coaching the team after leading Tulsa Union to an 18-16 record and a second-place finish in District 6A-3 last season.

“They alternate between coaches from the east and west side every year,” Newkirk said. “As far as I’m concerned, and I think I speak for our entire coaching staff, we felt like it was a very high honor that out of all the coaches on the east side that could have been a part of this they wanted us.

“They make it as easy as they can on us, and so far it’s run smoothly.”

Heading a team that is together for just one tournament isn’t easy. Newkirk had just one practice with his team before the start of the tournament, and with a handful of players still traveling with other squads on Monday it can be difficult to know exactly what he’s working with. One player, Carl Albert graduate Gavin LaValley, had to pull out of the tournament last week after being drafted by and then signing with the Cincinnati Reds.

“We got about two hours with the kids,” Newkirk said. “But we know a little bit about what we’ve got. We’re going to run when we can. We got some guys who can swing it well, and have some speed. We’ll see what they can handle.”

 

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