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Martin Oil shows improvement in Kelley Federation despite youth and inexperience

While the 2005 Martin Oil team made a quick exit in the opening round of the George B. Kelley Federation playoffs, it was another successful regular season for Martin Oil and manager Ed Davis and his coaching staff. Rebounding from their first losing record since the 1990s in 2004, the current edition of the Bellwood-Antis based team survived a monstrous schedule which had them play 21 games during the month of June to post a 16-8 regular season mark.
Youth and inexperience and a thin roster, were the key early factors that troubled Martin Oil and Davis. Martin Oil seldom had more than two players in the dugout other than their nine starters, and seldom was able to put the same nine on the scorecard as a starting lineup.
The pitching was there for most of the season, although a bad inning here or there often distorted the pitchers’ earned run averages and opposing hitters batting averages and did not tell the real story.
Hitting was slow at the beginning for Martin Oil, capped by a pair of back-to-back games in which the offense was able to generate just six hits total in the two games, both resulting in loses for Martin Oil.
The hitting did eventually begin to get better, to the point where at the end of the regular season, Martin Oil had built their team batting average up to .329, with eight starters batting .306 or better.
At season’s end, 16-year old Earnie Kelley was the team’s top hitter with a .395 batting average (30-76) and also led the team with 30 base hits and an on-base percentage of .526. Kelley had a team-best 21 walks, scored 19 runs with nine doubles and two triples, one home run and drove in 15 runs. Brandon Beech, Martin Oil’s leadoff batter for most of the season, topped the list in runs scored with 22, while batting .380 (25-71) with a dozen walks, seven doubles, 17 RBI and 10 stolen bases and had an on-base percentage of 459.
Zach Tomchick led the team with 11 stolen bases, hitting .333 (25-75), for an on-base percentage of .412, with 19 runs scored and 18 RBI. Chris Alley batted .333 (25-75) and led the team in doubles with 14, and slugging percentage (.440), and had an on-base percentage of .426. Troy Brunner was second in doubles with 12 and hits (27), while batting .365 (27-74), with 19 runs scored, 13 walks and 18 RBI, and an on-base percentage of .466. Sixteen-year old Chad Coho was second in batting with a .382 average with 14 runs, 11 walks and 11 RBI, and an on-base percentage of .468.
Blaze Winterstein, Martin Oil’s 16-year old catcher threw out 17 of 50 would-be base stealers, in addition to batting .314 with a team-high 22 RBI, and 12 runs scored. Dustin Harris batted .306 (19-62), scored 21 times and walked 10 times and stole nine bases. Harris hit four doubles, one triple and one home run. In a key reserve role, 16-year old Alex Miller batted .308 (8-26) with 14 runs scored, one double and one triple.
On the mound, Dustin Harris led the team in holding teams to the lowest opposing batting average (.243) and ERA (1.19) to go with a 2-0 record and added one save and three holds. Harris struck out 21 and walked six in 17 and 2/3 innings. Chris Alley led the team in wins (5-1), strikeouts (52) and innings pitched (38 and 2/3), while walking 16 and allowing an opposing batters average of .294 and compiling an ERA of 3.62. Earnie Kelley (2-4) struck out 34 and walked 10 in 31 innings on the hill.
Season-long weaknesses included walks, hit batsmen and errors that combined to be responsible for nearly every loss and made things a lot more interesting than the coaching staff would have preferred, even in most of the wins. Fifty-four runners who eventually scored, got on base via walks, errors and hit batsmen and that doesn’t include others that were pushed around the bases by mistakes over which there was no defense. On many occasions, errors occurred after base hits, which led to runs that were then charged to pitchers as earned runs, because they kept the inning alive, instead of getting Martin Oil in the dugout and on the offensive. While the batting averages seemed to be good enough, a general lack of ability to get the key clutch base hit was a deterrent to a better season and longer run through the playoffs.
Martin Oil (0-2) batted a lowly .170 as a team in their short playoff series against McMullen, a team that they had eliminated in the federation playoffs in each of the previous three seasons.
“We had a lot of kids on the team who didn’t play high school baseball this year, and thus were really rusty at the beginning of our season, and even those kids who played high school baseball went through a five-win season and didn’t get much opportunity to experience a winning attitude,” explained Davis. “The team had trouble putting everything together all year. At the beginning, we were getting good pitching, but no hitting. Then later, when the hitting came around, the pitching faltered. And our defense was very iffy in way too many situations, that we should have covered, but didn’t.
“We had some good performances individually, many of them from some of our younger kids. Blaze Winterstein did a nice job behind the plate and turned out to be a pleasant surprise with the bat, after hardly batting at all in high school. Earnie Kelley was our leading hitter, flirting with a .400 batting average for part of the season before finally setting in at .395. Chad Coho and Brandon Beech both hit much better for us than they did in high school. Alex Miller provided us with a quality effort coming off the bench. You just couldn’t have asked for better attitudes and efforts than those provided by Zach Tomchick and Troy Brunner. We only had three 18-year olds this year, Chris Alley, Tomchick and Chris McDaniel. We looked for them to provide leadership with so many younger kids on the roster. Dustin Harris was out for track in school, so he had to start from scratch without any baseball at all since last federation season, but came on to bat .300 and was our most effective pitcher.
“Lastly, I would like to thank many people for the help they gave us before and during the season. We have a great sponsor in Martin Oil and Tom Martin. Linda Alley and a few of the other mothers did a nice job in running the concession stand during games. I couldn’t have coached this team without the help of my assistant coaches, Tim Kovac, Craig Harris and Bob Miller. They all do a nice job and always have the best in mind for each kid on the team.”