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Baseball pipeline extending from Shawnee, Dale to Cowley College

Brian Johnson

Quite a baseball pipeline is being built from the Shawnee area to Cowley College in Arkansas City, Kansas.

Quite a baseball pipeline is being built from the Shawnee area to Cowley College in Arkansas City, Kansas.

One player – Kade Self – is just leaving the tradition-rich junior college after leading the Tigers with a .479 batting average in a coronavirus pandemic-shortened season.

Shawnee High School's J'Briell Easley and Dale High School's David Herring will play at Cowley College next season while three underclassmen - Shawnee's Krew Taylor and Brylen Janda, along with Dale's Carson Hunt - have verbally committed to the Tigers and are expected to play in 2022.

That pipeline can be attributed to Cowley assistant coach Dax Leone, a Shawnee High School alum.

Obviously, Easley and Herring each missed out on a senior spring season due to COVID-19. The Wolves had gotten off to a 3-0 start on the diamond, but Easley was still playing basketball when the virus concluded the season, just hours before SHS was set to play in the state basketball tournament.

Easley batted .311 in 2019 and was set to be a primary part of the pitching rotation in 2020.

“He's an unbelievable athlete. He is not as polished as he will be,” Leone said. “He has a power arm up to 94 miles-per-hour. He is going to have a chance to pitch in the big leagues. I think we will have a chance to give him some repetitions since he will be focusing totally on baseball. I think Cowley is a perfect spot for him and we will be able to have one-on-one time with him.”

Herring was able to play baseball last fall and was a critical part of Dale's run to a Class A fall state championship. The shortstop and left-handed hitter owned a whopping .534 batting average with 11 home runs, one triple, 19 doubles and 57 runs batted in. From the mound, he registered a 6-0 record with a 1.72 earned-run average.

He was named to the 2020 All-State Small East Team by the Oklahoma Baseball Coaches Association.

“I think he is one of the best shortstops in the state. He has tremendous hands. I like to call him an old-school dirtbag baseball player,” said Leone. “We look forward to him stepping in and playing shortstop once he's on campus. He has a great arm and great instincts and his footwork is really good. He has also played a lot of high-level summer ball.”

The trio of Taylor, Janda and Hunt have shown enough skills and promise that they are early commitments collegiately.

Taylor was hitting .500 (4-for-8) with three RBIs, six runs scored and a pair of walks before the pandemic hit.

“Krew has great hands and is a really smart baseball player. His best years are ahead of him,” Leone said. “He's a good hitter and comes from a great family – Josh his dad and Steve his grandfather.”

Leone and Josh Taylor played together for Shawnee in high school.

Janda was the winning pitcher in Shawnee's 9-1 win over Sand Springs in five innings in the Wolves' abbreviated three-game season before COVID-19 as he allowed the one earned run off three hits with eight strikeouts and only two walks.

“Brylen is a 6-4 right-hander who has been up to 88 (miles-per-hour). He's just 16, a young (high school) junior,” said Leone. “He's a really smart and can see him being a 93-94 per-hour guy, once he grows into his body more and becomes a little stronger. He is a super competitive.”

Hunt hit .467 with five homers, three triples, 17 doubles and 34 runs batted in for the state champion Pirates last fall.

“He's a left-handed hitter and probably one of the top left-handed hitters in the state,” Leone said. “He has raw power and can play third base, first base and right field. His bat will get him in the lineup. He has tremendous bat speed.”