"We have 13 returning lettermen, and depending on the line-up from 2005, we have eight returning starters," said Coach Rod Hemphill, in his eighth year of coaching at Cassville. "We will be experienced and hopefully use that experience to do a lot of good things."
The team's returning starters include: senior Jason Bromley at catcher who was named to the All-Big 8 Conference first team in 2004 and 2005; senior Ashton Dorris at pitcher and designated hitter who was named to the All-Big 8 first team at DH in 2005; senior Spencer Lynch at second base who was an All-Big 8 honorable mention choice in 2005; senior Brett Buchanan at first base who made 2005 All-Big 8 second team; senior Clay Craig at third base and pitcher; senior Michael Brooks in the outfield; sophomore Kelby Haynes at shortstop and pitcher; and junior Tim Orrell as a utility player.
The team's returning lettermen include: senior Bryan Gryder at designated hitter and outfield; junior Kason Koelsch as a utility player; junior Cory Lebow at third base; sophomore Dannon Rose in the outfield; and sophomore Mike Simmons in the infield and at pitcher.
Coach Hemphill is also looking to depend on some new varsity talent, which includes sophomore Michael Baker at pitcher, sophomore Lane Stubblefield, a transfer from Monett, at pitcher, sophomores Ryan Rowley and Cory Howard, and freshman Aaron Jamieson.
"These players will be pushing for varsity time," Hemphill said.
At the start of the season, Hemphill is monitoring some injury issues that are a big concern for him at the moment. Lynch is overcoming a sore throwing shoulder, Simmons is dealing with a broken right hand and Craig is playing through a knee injury suffered during football season.
On a more positive note, Hemphill is fielding an arsenal of pitchers, which will be a big key to the Wildcats' success this season.
"Dorris looked good from the summer Legion program and is poised to have a great season," said Hemphill. "Craig also played this summer and had a good off-season, Haynes is still trying to get his arm and body in baseball shape; he will throw a lot of quality innings.
"When you throw in Baker, Stubblefield and Brooks, we are as deep in pitching as we have been since 2000 and 2001," added Hemphill.
"Defensively we should be good with our experience and speed," Hemphill continued. "Bromley is the anchor behind the plate, and Buchanan, Craig, Haynes, Lynch or Koelsch are on the infield and have a lot of experience. Brooks, Orrell, Rose and Dorris also brings an outstanding group of athletes in the outfield."
Hemphill said the Wildcats might struggle offensively at first as some of the players get used to varsity pitching.
"Bromley, Dorris, Bucha-nan, Brooks, Craig, Haynes and Lynch all are used to varsity pitching, while Gryder, Orrell, Koelsch, Rose and Lebow will have to adjust," said Hemphill.
Traditionally, Carl Junction, Seneca and Cassville are at the top of the Big 8 Conference, and this year will be no different. Hemphill did say that he expects Monett and Mt. Vernon to be better in 2006.
"Our district is still the toughest top to bottom," said Hemphill. "Ozark, Republic and Branson are all three extremely tough again this year. We play a tougher schedule this year, playing Republic, Nixa and Branson right off to start the year. We also picked up Carthage instead of Neosho this year. We hope to have a good year and represent Cassville proudly."
Coach Hemphill will be joined this season by Coach Pete Rose, who will be returning to coach junior varsity and the pitching staff. Tony Eagleburger will join the coaching team as freshman coach. He previously coached at Fair Grove and Conway.
"Coach Rose is plainly the best in preparing pitchers and calling games to give Cassville a chance to win, and Eagleburger brings a lot of enthusiasm to the program," said Hemphill.
The Wildcats open their season in the Republic/Nixa Lead-off Tournament. Cassville received a bye for the first round of tournament play and will play their first game on March 21 at 4 p.m. against Republic at Republic. Next, the team plays on March 23 at 6:30 p.m. against Branson at Nixa. Games are also scheduled for March 24 and March 25.
Cassville's first home game is scheduled for March 31 against Reeds Spring.