Senior-laden 'Cats eye successful season
Wildcat baseball squad to be led by seven seniors and seven starters
By George Ulmer
The spring season has arrived and the Cassville baseball Wildcats are ready for yet another great season of play.
The Wildcat squad will have plenty of experience this year and will attempt to turn knowledge into success. The squad returns seven seniors and seven starters from last year's team.
Kelby Haynes, a senior, will be relied on heavily in the batter's box and on the mound for the Wildcats. Haynes has been an All-Big 8 conference pick for two years running and looks to make it a third. He gives the Wildcats power in the line-up and tons of experience on the bump.
Ryan Rowley, another senior, will provide Cassville with some speed. Rowley, who plays outfield, garnered second team All-Conference honors last season. Rowley is quick on the base paths as well as in the field.
Jody Cavness will anchor Cassville behind the plate. The senior was a second team All-Conference pick last year and will continue to be a leader both at and behind the plate for Cassville.
Senior Michael Baker will give Cassville some versatility at the pitcher's spot. The lefty will be a certain change of pace from Haynes. Baker, who signed with Meramec Community College earlier this year, will also provide the Wildcats with some power in the line-up.
Danny Naugle will give the Wildcats another dependable bat and glove. The senior will play in the outfield for the team.
Jake Nolan will likely finish out Cassville's starting pitching rotation. Nolan, a junior, can also play third base for the 'Cats.
Aaron Jamieson finishes out the last of the Wildcats' returning starters. The junior gives the Wildcats even more choices as he can play either catcher or in the outfield.
Cassville also returns seven lettermen from last year's squad.
Aaron Brooks leads this group. At the end of last season, the junior was "called up" to the varsity level and both pitched and batted some for the squad. Coach Rod Hemphill believes Brooks' role will increase this year.
Along with Brooks Cassville will look for increased contributions from seniors Andrew Gryder (OF) and Brian Poremba (1B) and juniors Vinee McCracken (IF), Patrick Maher (3B/1B), Cody Pierson (Util.) and David Lunsford (P).
"We have a lot of players back and should be an experienced team," said Coach Hemphill. "We feel like we can compete but must do a better job at the plate."
In addition to their veterans, Cassville will also add some "rookies" to their roster. Trevor Tanner (OF), Ricky Vanderpool (SS/2B), Travis Northern (P/IF) and Kyle Rhea (1B/P) are all sophomores who hope to see some playing time this year.
Cassville will face another tough year in their conference and district. Last year the 'Cats finished 13-7 overall and 4-3 in the Big 8.
"For our seven seniors this will be the last go round. Hopefully we can be in the mix of conference and district play," said Hemphill.
Hemphill, in his 10th year at the Wildcat baseball helm, is assisted by Kyle Wood and Jim Genzler.