By Bob Simmons
Area high school baseball teams have taken advantage of the great weather as they prepare for the upcoming spring season. Two of the county teams are hoping to repeat as district champions and the other two want to attain this goal.
Troy Buchanan finished third in the South Division of the Gateway Athletic Conference and returns several starters, Coached by Andrew Elmendorf, the Trojans finished with a 19-10 record. Key losses from that team include Brandon Bennett, Hunter Martin, Peyton White and Alex Gutermuth.
“Hunter and Alex did a lot of the pitching last year so we are concentrating on replacing them with some younger arms,” said Elmendorf.
Eric Tipton will be the pitcher with the most experience. Also expected to see duty on the mound will be Jasen Anderson, Jacob Traynor, Andrew Nett and Cody Hoffman.
“Tipton has been steady player for us for three years and will help us on offense as well,” said Elmendorf.
Returning to handle the pitchers will be Cole Dickherber behind the plate. “Dickherber handles the pitchers very well,” the coach said.
Battling for playing time at first are Bailey Brush and Nate Keleher. Manning the middle infield positions are returners Todd Myers at second and Garrett Miller at short. When not pitching, Tipton will be at third backed up by Jordan Ball and Brush.
Key outfielders will include Dylan Walker, Cole Justus, Anderson, Nathan Falls and Jackson Ziemann.
“The team should be above average defensively and I feel our pitchers have good potential,” said Elmendorf. “If we can hold our opponents to four or fewer runs, we got a great shot at winning.”
The Trojans will open the season, facing Battle March 17 in the first round of the Troy Flooring Center tournament in Troy.
“We are looking to moving the program in the same direction,” said Elmendorf. “As for as our division in the conference, the team to beat is and always has been Francis Howell. They have a great program every year. The other teams are strong and improving.”
Down the road on Highway 47, Winfield looks to move their program forward following their 20-9 record last year. They placed second in the GAC North Division, one game behind St. Charles, and won a district championship before losing to Fulton in the sectionals.
Coach Justin Rodgers lost six seniors including four starters. They included Damian Cagle, Chase Bauer, Ryan Palmer and Jake Freeman.
Rodgers returns three starting infielders including Turner McGlasson, Carter Bauer and John Hogan. Josh Cook returns as catcher. The pitching staff is anchored by Spencer Keiser and Joey Marko. The outfield is led by centerfielder Collin Sutton.
Among the newcomers who should play will include Cameron Turnbull, Donovan Ehle, Robert Roeggman, and Jacob Vomund.
“Our pitching should be a strength with Spencer and Joey coming back,” said Rodgers. “ Our kids should be good defensively. A concern in the early going is hitting, especially in the heart of the line-up. The players we lost hit third, fourth, and fifth last season. I think we should be alright as the spring progresses.”
The Silex R-1 baseball team is getting ready to start the 2017 season.
The Owls home opener will be March 17 against North County Christian. This year’s team has 28 players with eight new freshmen. Silex only lost one player, Cody Mudd, to graduation. The owls will have several key players returning this year including all state players Colton Groshong, pitcher; Joe Martin, catcher and Jacob Stolle, outfield er and pitcher.
Silex finished their season 14-7 last and finished fourth in the Final For, losing to Bell City in the semi-finals.
“The boys are working hard and I think that competition between them will help us out in the line up,” said Coach Kent Hufty.
Hufty said that the team has solid pitching and experience from last year in winning districts. He says that he believes that there will be some major improvements that will help the team in the upcoming season.
“I think team wise I think we will do better in our batting average and our depth in pitching,” he said.
Dustin Robinson begins his fourth year leading the Elsberry Indians. They are preparing for their opener March 18 as they host Festus and Winfield.
Robinson lost starters including Zack Rimel, and Colby Martin. Key returnees include Jon Almus, Tyler Turnbull, Stephen Boedeker, Cale Mackey and Michael Kelly. Top newcomer will be freshman Jake Rimel.
“Our primary goal this year is the same as always,” said Robinson. “We want to get off to a fast start and not have to struggle from mid-season on. If we stay healthy, I think we will be competitive and have a good year. We will concentrate on the fundamentals
Robinson says Elsberry plays in the Eastern Missosuri Conference which again should be very competitive.
Staff Writer Austin Groshong contributed to this story.