Connors State playing for tornado-damaged Moore, Okla., during JUCO World Series
Connors State (Okla.) College’s baseball team hopes to represent more than its school and community in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
The Cowboys are playing for Moore, Okla., which was hit by an EF-5 tornado on Monday, killing at least 24 people. An EF-5 is the most powerful type of twister, according to the National Weather Service.
Connors State, which is in Warner, Okla., wasn’t hit, but the Cowboys have inscribed “Moore” on the side of their ball caps to honor the victims. Connors State (52-9) plays Navarro (Texas) College (43-15) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Suplizio Field.
The news of the tornado was especially devastating for two Connors State players who are from Moore.
“We were in the middle of practice, and I actually looked at my phone 20 minutes before coach told us,” Connors pitcher Sawyer Barnard said. “I saw I had five missed calls from my mom and a bunch of texts. I didn’t think anything of it. Later on, coach came up to me and asked if I talked to my mom. I knew she was calling me. He said, ‘Go call her right now.’
“I finally got a hold of her, but she couldn’t get to the house because the roads were closed down. She finally got to the house and said, ‘We’re good. The house is good.’ “
The sophomore wanted to pack up and head back to his hometown.
“I was thinking my house was gone,” Barnard said. “I was about to load up and head home. Even when I found out (it was OK), I told mom I need to come help. She said, ‘No. We’re fine. Stay there.’
“I felt helpless for a while. I was freaking out, trying to stay calm. I couldn’t do much about it.”
Jake Borrego couldn’t reach his family for about an hour Monday and was getting concerned.
“They didn’t answer. I tried close friends and couldn’t get through to them either,” Borrego said. “I finally got through to a guy in the neighborhood, and he said everyone was OK, but the damage was pretty severe.
“It must have been an hour before I heard from them. I went back to the room, had the news on. I was worried for a little while.”
A former Connors State player, Michael Zurmehly, who played on the Cowboys’ 2008 World Series team, is on the search and rescue squad in Moore and had worked 36 consecutive hours after the tornado hit.
“It was a while before they got a hold of families,” Connors State coach Perry Keith said. “Then it was a while before they knew their homes were OK.
“It was a bad deal. The devastation is horrible.”
Barnard’s older brother, Dusty, who played on the Cowboys’ 2003 World Series team, was affected by the tornado.
His business and truck were destroyed.
“I’ve seen pictures, but you’re at a loss for words until you actually see it,” Sawyer Barnard said. “It’s kind of emotional. I want to know what’s going on (in Moore). Knowing everybody’s safe is OK, but I’ve still got to get my mindset right. That’s part of it.”
Borrego is anxious to return home.
“I’m a little worried and excited,” Borrego said of returning to Moore. “I’m excited to see all the people and how the community has come together. From what I hear, it’s awesome.
“Home is where the heart is, but this is what I love to do. I can take my mind off it and play.”