Mike Hurt expects to see a lot of old friends when he walks the halls and athletic offices at East Central University during the coming school year. Now if he can just find a few new faces to look at when he stalks the foul lines and the dugout at Tiger baseball games next spring.

When Hurt — a former star under legendary ECU coach Ken Turner in the early 1980’s — was named last week to succeed Ron Hill as only the Tigers’ fourth baseball coach ever, he inherited a program that struggled mightily — especially on offense — in 2006.

And, without a little help, things could get even worse next spring. ECU not only lost 35 of 54 games last season, but Hill also appears to have left the cupboard pretty bare for his successor.

“I think we only have about 10 players coming back, and some of them have eligibility problems,” said Hurt, who coached at Allen (1986-1990) and Tupelo (1991-92) before taking over the softball program at Del City High School for the last dozen years. “It’s too late to go after any new players. I think Ron had signed two players (before he resigned earlier this month to become head coach at Arkansas-Monticello), so all I’ll have is whatever players I have left from last season and whatever players I can get to walk on.”

So why is this man so happy to be here? Because, although he’s facing a potential nightmare next spring, Mike Hurt is finally living his dream.

“I’m real excited to be here,” Hurt said. “Ever since I played here, I’ve wanted to coach college baseball at East Central. Twenty-five years later, here I am.”

Here I am.

Custer could have uttered those words as he rode toward the Little Big Horn, and Travis, Crockett and the boys probably had a similar sentiment as they hunkered down at the Alamo waiting for Santa Anna and a few thousand of his closest friends to come calling. But while those other famous disasters meant the end for Custer, Travis, Crockett and their men, Hurt sees the upcoming season — for better or worse — as simply the beginning of a road leading to ECU’s return to baseball prominence in the not-so-distant future.

“It’s probably going to take a few years before it gets going again, but it WILL get going again,” Hurt predicted. “I’m THAT confident.”

Although confidence doesn’t appear to be a problem for Hurt, numbers should be — at least next season. He faces a 2007 campaign with a team made up of a few holdovers from one of the toughest springs in ECU history and whatever walk-ons he can assemble. On the plus side, Hurt will be drawing from an area he knows all too well as a baseball hotbed.

“There’s a lot of good talent in high schools within a 50-mile radius of Ada,” Hurt said. “I’ve had some good ex-area baseball players call me already, so there’s some interest. And I’m hoping to hear from some more.

“I’ll know a lot more on Aug. 22, when I meet with my players for the first time,” he added. “I might get into my office next week and have 100 phone messages (from players who are interested).”

ECU officials don’t feel like it was much of a gamble signing Hurt, despite a lack of coaching experience at the college level (Hurt has just a brief stint as Turner’s graduate assistant to his credit). He survived a screening process that began with more than 60 applications, however, and ECU athletic director Tim Green said he and the other members of the search committee who chose Hurt believe they have the right man for the considerable job ahead.

“We had a number of outstanding candidates apply, but we felt like we had some inside info on Mike,” Green said. “He’s a competitor, and he’s absolutely a guy who bleeds orange and black. This has been a dream job for Mike since he started coaching.”

Unlike Hill, who rarely signed an area player during his 17 years as Tiger coach, Hurt said he expects to take full advantage of the abundance of talent available, year-in-and-year-out, in south central Oklahoma. His knowledge of this region should be a tremendous help as he attempts to rebuild the ECU baseball program.

“I got along great with coaches in the Ada area, and some of the kids I coached are coaches themselves now (including Tupelo’s Clay Weller),” Hurt said. “Plus I know all the (Oklahoma) City coaches.

“I’m not going to recruit a kid from Edmond Santa Fe just because he’s from Edmond, and I’m not going to ignore a kid from this area just because he’s from a small school.”

Hurt, who was a talented third baseman and shortstop on four straight winning teams under Turner, knows what baseball success feels like as a player. Now he wants to experience the same feeling as a collegiate coach. And, although circumstances should guarantee ECU another losing season in 2007, he expects to provide an entertaining brand of baseball this year and a winner in the near future.

“I want kids who have enthusiasm and mental toughness,” Hurt said. “That’s the kind of kid I’m going after, and I don’t care where they’re from. Then we’ll go to battle together.

“I’ll find nine kids this year who want to get after it,” he added. “Win, lose or draw, whatever’s on that field playing, they’ll be proud to be wearing that ECU jersey. That’s what I want to get back into the program — that it means something to wear that jersey.”


Although he’s entering just his fourth year as a head coach, Byng’s Kevin Wilson has already established himself — and his program — among the best in the state, and he was honored at Tuesday’s All-State baseball game as Region 6 Coach of the Year for 2005-2006.

“It’s a great honor,” said Wilson, who took the Pirates to a fall state title in 2004 and to five state tournaments (fall and spring) over the past three years. “It’s something you don’t think about when you’re coaching, but it’s nice to be recognized.”


The folks at Eastern State College have to be a little bit excited about an incoming class of baseball recruits that includes Roff’s Dearth Parker and Dale’s Jared Coon, who, for the past three seasons, have been among the most dominant small-school players in the state and who both played key roles in the Small East’s 6-3 victory over the Small West in Tuesday’s All-State game.

Parker — a major reason Roff won Class A spring state titles two of the past three years — went 2-for-4 with single and a run scored in a two-run first inning and a two-run triple to cap a four-run seventh-inning outburst that broke a 2-2 tie, and he also threw out two runners on the basepaths. Coon — who led Dale to a 2A state title this spring and the Class A crown last fall — overpowered the West for the game’s first three innings, striking out eight and allowing only two balls to be put in play.

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