Baseball Lions sign Red Oak hurler
Hayden Killebrew is season's first recruit
Coach Shockley seeks pitchers and power hitters
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The baseball team at Southwestern Assemblies of God University has begun to unveil their new class of recruits.
The initial student-athlete to sign a national letter of intent to attend SAGU and play for the Lions is a local product in Hayden Killebrew, from Red Oak, Texas.
A right-handed pitcher, he earned First Team All-District honors for Red Oak High School as a senior. The six-foot, 220-pound starting hurler for the Hawks had a 7-4 won-lost record under first year Head Coach Jay Johnson.
He combined with Dylan Morales (4-5 record, 2.30 ERA) to lead a Hawks team that was also blessed with plenty of offense.
According to Johnson, Killebrew’s primary arsenal includes a combination of his fastball, curveball and an effective changeup. He produced six complete games during eleven starts.
His 2.32 earned run average as a senior saw him walk just nine batters in 60 innings pitched.
SAGU’s second year Head Coach Jonathan Shockley and Assistant Coach Tommy Benningfield have targeted pitching and power hitters as top targets in off-season recruiting.
“Hayden has the goods and competitive drive to make an impact on the college level,” Shockley said. “There is much to admire in him. He should fit in very well here at SAGU.”
Killebrew was nicknamed Chewbacca for his size and calm demeanor.
The model student makes good choices, according to Johnson. “He works hard on and off the field,” he added.
“Hayden sets high standards for himself and for his peers. He was a big part of our success this year at Red Oak and will be greatly missed next season.”
Killebrew led the Hawks into the third round of the state Class 4A playoffs.
After picking up a huge 6-1 win over Corsicana (26-10 record) and a 65-pitch, six strike-out effort in a 12-0 win against Terrell, the Hawks entered the post-season by winning eight of their last ten games.
Red Oak ousted Pflugerville's Hendrickson H.S. (22-6 record) with a 4-3 victory in the final game of the best-of-three series. The game saw the Hawks rally from a three-run deficit on their home turf, Buddy Groom Field. Killebrew was the starter in a game that went nine innings.
They routed the Nacogdoches H.S. Dragons 13-2 when Killebrew threw 70 pitches, allowing four hits and no walks.
Their 3-1 start in the playoffs, with Killebrew starting two of the wins, ended when they ran into Whitehouse, who was 28-4 at the time. He did not take the mound in either of the two shutout defeats at the hand of the Wildcats.
The son of Todd and Rena Killebrew stuck with the varsity program when Johnson was named head coach. He served the same role at nearby Palmer H.S. for 10 years.
He earned a starting pitcher position as a senior. His highlight moment, according to Johnson, was likely the triumph over Corsicana. The Hawks’ previous head coach was at the helm of the Tigers, who were unbeaten in district play at the time. Killebrew got the win.
Red Oak finished 19-13 overall, 10-6 in the challenging District 15-4A. Forney (21-6, 12-3) won the league, edging Corsicana (26-10, 15-4) and Waxahachie (25-17, 13-5).
The Hawks scored 237 runs, an average of 7.4 per game, the most in the past five seasons. They reached double-figures 11 times.
Red Oak has now achieved four consecutive winning seasons; 18-14 in 2009, 16-14 in 2010, 24-14-1 in 2011 and 19-13 this spring.
About SAGU Baseball
Southwestern Assemblies of God University is a dual Division I member of both the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (the NAIA has 297 members) and the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA; 106 members).
Regionally, the Lions compete in the Red River Athletic Conference (15 members), which has schools from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana.
SAGU had an improved season in the spring, posting a 14-28 record mark. The pitching staff generated a 5.27 ERA, bettering the 7.38 and 10.00 marks of the previous two years.
Defensively, led by a pair of freshman middle infielders, the Lions turned 22 double plays after notching just one in 2011. The team upped their collective batting average from .280 to .284, though they lacked power and clutch-hitting at various times.
The Purple Pride have lost a handful of senior veterans (five starters), but have an impressive corps of returning under-classmen led by shortstop Donovan Vess (Ft. Worth), pitcher Rockie Davis (Santa Fe, Tx), first baseman Enrique Rodriguez (Ft. Worth, Tx), pitcher Robert Elles (Red Oak, Tx) and others.
Four juniors will play perhaps even stronger roles; catchers Jared Denton (Mission, Tx) and Taylor Froelich (Lee’s Summit, Mo) and pitcher John Savis (Canton, Tx) and pitcher/outfielder Zach Worrell (Ft. Worth, Tx).
SAGU is currently completing the construction of an on-campus ballpark after playing at the Waxahachie Sports Complex for the first 10 years of their existence. The new field will be ready for fall camp and the 2013 season.
Note: All above photos are courtesy of Steve Patterson, a local freelance photographer who resides in Red Oak. He is a regular at area/community and prep athletic venues as well as during SAGU sporting events. His work is available at www.movingpictures.photoreflect.com.