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Oilers aiming to build off success of 2021 season

by Jason Avery | July 29, 2021 at 9:15 p.m.

The El Dorado Oilers rewrote their record books this summer.

In addition to enjoying their best season both in wins and zone wins, the Oilers recently finished their best run at the state tournament, winding up third after winning their first three games.

The Oilers celebrated their 100th win since the program returned with 48 of those wins coming in the last two years.

“We came in with high expectations after having a solid summer last year,” Oilers coach Greg Harrison said. “Of course, we had quite a few of our players coming back. The only thing that we knew that would be challenging is every year families plan summer vacations, and we also had some ballplayers going to orientations for college. You tend to run into that from time to time.”

The records that the 2021 Oilers established were many.

The top six batting averages the Oilers have had in any season all belong to players on this year’s team with AJ Alsobrook and Gabe Richard sharing the batting mark at .517.

The top three marks in hits also come from this season with Tanner McLelland’s 43 leading the way. McLelland, who ranks second in career hits, also set season records for the Oilers with 33 runs scored and 20 stolen bases, as well as the career record for stolen bases with 34.

Ashton Yarbrough set two season records this summer with his 36 RBIs and five triples, four of which came at the state tournament, becoming new highs for the Oilers.

Tyler Johnson’s 14 doubles are also a new record, and he finished second on the team in hits with 36 and RBIs with 32.

On the pitching side, Jacob Eubanks set the single season mark for wins with six, and he also holds the best career ERA at 2.22. Eubanks also holds the highest career batting average as well with a .445 mark.

Baylor Brumley continued to excel with the Oilers, finishing as the career leader in wins (14), appearances (42), games started (22), innings pitched (133 1/3) and strikeouts (137). His career ERA of 2.84 ranks third.

Chase Brumley set the single season and career record for saves with three this summer while posting 4-1 record. He also hit .489 to rank fourth on the team along with 15 stolen bases.

At the state tournament in Conway, the Oilers topped Fort Smith, Batesville and Sheridan to reach the finals of the winner’s bracket before falling to Russellville and Cabot to finish third.

“After running through our first three games, we were strategic on how we should use some of our pitching,” Harrison said. “We could’ve used a few more arms to help us out. That doesn’t take away from the guys that we threw, especially there at the end.

“They were guys that I’m confident to put out there on the mound. Even looking back at the game against Cabot, it speaks volumes for Tanner McLelland. As little as he pitched this year, and he’s never really been called on to pitch a whole lot throughout his career, but the one thing about Tanner is he’s going to mix it up well and throw strikes.

“Whenever we weren’t making the defensive plays that we needed to to get out of innings, he’s still throwing strikes. Against Cabot in the first inning, there were five runs that shouldn’t have been on the board. In the second, there were three runs where only one of them should’ve been on the board. It would’ve been a completely different ballgame if we would’ve been just a little bit more solid, more routine defensively.

“That definitely could have kept us in it, but also having a few more arms could’ve also helped us because we could’ve kept Tanner in the outfield. He’s been phenomenal for us and made a lot of great plays defensively.”

The Oilers’ run also gave college coaches from Arkansas and neighboring states an opportunity to evaluate the team.

“We were definitely proud of the resolve that the guys had,” Harrison said. “We definitely had just as good or about better talent than any of the other teams that were there. A lot of the college coaches that were there made reference to that. I had some great conversations with the Russellville head coach, who is also the head coach at Arkansas Tech. The UCA head coach was there with a few of his ballplayers and members of his coaching staff. We had some good conversations.”

Two-out hits and triples were constants for the Oilers during the state tournament.

The Oilers scored 12 of their 22 runs against Fort Smith and Batesville with two outs, and they had seven triples in their three wins at the state tournament.

“We’ve had a very resilient team all year,” Harrison said of the Oilers’ success with two outs. “Looking back to our games with Sheridan where we split, we lost 10-4 in the first game and we were down 9-2 in the second game going into the sixth inning. We scored seven runs in the top of the sixth inning and 12 in the top of the seventh. One thing that I can definitely say that I was the most proud of our team this year is it didn’t matter what inning we were in, if we were down by a few runs, we were very resilient.

“There were a lot of times in the tournament where we had two outs, and the next thing you know, one guy would get a hit, the other one would get a walk, the other guy would get a hit, hits would become contagious with this team. As a team, we hit .404 this season, but with two outs during this tournament, I would say we hit over .500 with two outs. We never lost our confidence.”

Harrison said the number of extra-base hits the Oilers had stems from their approach at the plate.

“One thing that our guys started doing and this is one of the biggest compliments that we received from the Arkansas Tech coach was that when we drove the ball, they weren’t popups, they were line drives,” Harrison said. “We swung the bats real well. We got to the field probably about an hour and 15 minutes before every game, and we were able to utilize UCA’s cage. They have a very nice facility, so we got in the cage and put in some work before each game. We went up there and focused on baseball and gave it our best shot.”

With their best season to date officially in the books, now the Oilers must see if they can sustain their success.

“One of the best things that we ever did was start the junior program many years ago,” Harrison said. “Many of the guys that just graduated from high school or were freshmen in college started in our very first junior program. We have some other young men that are coming up. Our junior program this year, about half of them were very young and half of them were more of what you would consider seasoned veterans. Hunter Lawrence, AJ Alsobrook, John Robert Burson, Kolin Parker, they all came and played with us at this tournament, so that was four of our 11 guys that we had.

“Chase Brumley and Rhett Richardson were two guys that were of age of being able to play on the junior team. We rostered them on the junior team this year, but coach (Cannon) Lester was wanting to focus more on the younger guys and giving them their opportunities because Chase and Rhett were getting quite a bit of playing time with the senior team. They’re both still really young, and they were noticed this past weekend. ΩIt gave them an opportunity to get exposure with many of the local colleges in the state. We should have quite a few good ballplayers coming back. We’re going to be losing some guys that we hate to lose just from a personal standpoint, but we have some other guys that have gotten quite a bit of reps with the junior team as well as with the senior team.

“Many of those guys got reps in the state tournament, and they know what it’s going to take. They’ve seen the talent from some of the kids that are older than they were. We’re definitely going to be depending on them as we look to bring in some younger guys that are going to start playing with them. Hopefully, they’ll be leaders and mentors to those younger guys that are growing up through the program.”

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