By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The final record might have been deceiving for the Carthage baseball team last spring.
The Tigers finished 8-19 but four of those losses were by one run and many contests boiled down to one “blow up” inning that would take the team out of the game.
“But it was a very competitive season for us up and down,” head coach Luke Bordewick said.
And the good news for Carthage this year is virtually everybody is back. The team returns nine starters and will have 10 or 11 seniors on the roster. Two of those players earned postseason recognition.
Senior Kanen Vogt was a second team All-Conference infielder (first base) in the Central Ozark Conference and a first team pick as a pitcher and infielder on the All-Class 6 District 6 team. He had five doubles, drove in 18 runs and scored 10 while batting .309 with an on-base percentages of .429. He pitched 24.1 innings and was 2-2 with 20 strikeouts. Senior Kaden Arr was a first team All-District pitcher who led the team in innings pitched (56) and ranked second in strikeouts (44).
Senior Caden Kabance returns at shortstop after hitting .244 with a .366 on-base percentage. He drove in eight runs and scored 15, drew a dozen walks and stole a dozen bases. Senior Sylas Browning played in every game as an outfielder and had six doubles, five RBI’s, 11 runs and five stolen bases while batting .286 with a .386 OBP. Senior Nate Norbury saw a lot of time in the outfield and scored 10 runs while batting .316 with a .519 OBP. Senior Parker Copeland also saw a lot of playing time and scored eight runs. Senior Braxdon Tate earned several starts towards the end of the season and appeared in six games as an outfielder. Senior Logan Carmickle is another returning outfielder who saw action in eight games due to injury; he was a .429 hitter with a .556 OBP. Senior Zach Geter should contribute on the mound after tossing 8.2 innings last season.
Beyond that large senior group, junior Clay Kinder returns after logging a lot of action at catcher. He played in 14 games, scored seven runs and drew seven walks while stealing six bases. Junior Drew Musche could play at first base or elsewhere on the infield. A handful of sophomores could also help out on the mound and fill in for other starters.
“We have quality pitchers that can throw a lot of strikes and we have a large number of guys that can do that,” Bordewick said. “Kaden Arr and Kanen Vogt will probably be our one and two this year. Zach Geter looks to turn into a starting role. Parker Copeland threw a lot for us over the summer and he’s looking to be another starter for us. That fifth starter, it’s up for debate. A couple sophomores could compete for it or there might be a gem somewhere we have not found yet. We’ve got a bunch of guys on the back end that could contribute an inning or two. “
The greatest biggest strength will be experience, and Bordewick said it’s a weird feeling going from last spring, when the Tigers had two players with varsity experience, to this year with nine or 10.
“The guys matured a lot last year so this year they know what to expect,” he said. “I think we’re going to be really fast again with a lot of team speed returning and on the mound I think we’ll be able to throw competitive pitches. Offensively we’re going to put hard-hit balls in play, limit our strikeouts and those easy outs. We’ll put pressure on the base paths whether bunting, stealing or hit-and-running. “
Carthage will head to Joplin on March 15 for a jamboree and opens the regular season March 19 with games against Glendale and Kennett. The Tigers host their Bill O’Dell Tournament from April 4-9 with Carl Junction, Nevada, Seneca, Monett and Mt. Vernon coming to play. Carthage will also travel to Lawrence, Kansas to play three games in mid-April at the University of Kansas against Olathe Northwest, Lawrence and Southern Boone.