Eagles aiming for wins as baseball season nears
Eagles return 6 starters, eye conference title
For the Purdy baseball team, winning is the norm.
Over 11 years, Coach Joshua Hughes has amassed a 235-148 record in the fall and spring seasons.
Last year, the Eagles entered a transition phase and finished 8-15.
Gone from that team is the senior leadership of Brent Cornman, Alex Mareth and Reese Veith who combined for six of the victories on the mound, 26 RBI, 41 hits and 29 stolen bases.
"Alex singlehandedly beat teams on the mound and at the plate," Hughes said. "Brent became our No. 2 pitcher, and Reese was solid at second base. They will be hard to replace."
Despite six returning starters, Purdy will still be a young squad with just one senior on the roster in Robby Moody.
"Like I say every year, we plan to outwork our opponents in practice and play hard every pitch," Hughes said. "We like our club this year, but we are young and inexperienced."
Moody was 1-3 on the mound with a 4.98 ERA. At the plate, he hit .235 with 6 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
"Robby was an all-district selection as a sophomore and stepped into a different role last year for the sake of the team, which hurt his stats," Hughes said. "He will be back into a more comfortable position this year, and the coaching staff expects him to lead on and off the field. He is excited about his senior year."
For Moody, he thinks the team can win now.
"I feel like coming into the season, we have a lot of potential for success on the diamond," Moody said. "We worked hard this offseason in the weight room and are looking forward to the upperclassman to keep rolling and the underclassmen to play a key role in our success."
A trio of juniors, Sydney Birge, Dusty Videmschek and Jonatan Salazar, look to take another step forward in their development.
Birge was 1-3 on the mound last season with a 4.47 ERA and hit .288 with 12 RBI.
"Sydney is coming into this spring after a huge fall season," Hughes said. "He became our clear-cut No. 1 on the mound and will push for that spot again this spring. He will be a big bat also in the middle of the lineup."
Videmschek anchored first base last season. He hit .271 with 9 RBI and swiped 5 bases.
"Dusty is our leader," Hughes said. "He plays a great first base and can hit from the left side of the plate with power and [a good batting] average. If he can stay healthy, he could put up huge numbers this spring."
Salazar got better as the season went along last year. He only hit .170, but had 8 RBI and stole 10 bases.
"Jonatan is a pure athlete," Hughes said. "His first year of playing baseball was last season as a sophomore and he made his way into the lineup early in the season. We will rely on his speed and hustle a lot this year."
Purdy also returns three sophomores in Ricky Aldaba, Justin Lanore and Leighton Harkey.
Aldaba saw the most action of the trio last season. He hit .262 with 6 RBI and 5 stolen bases.
"Ricky was our everyday catcher as a freshman and will be back there again this year when he isn't pitching," Hughes said. "He is a really baseball smart player with a great live arm and stick. I am looking forward to big things from him."
Lanore could have a breakout sophomore season if things go the right way.
"Justin had some starts as a freshman and is a big strong kid," Hughes said. "With an offseason dedicated to pitching, we look for him to step up and be a force with continued hard work."
Harkey could push for some playing time in the corner outfield spots.
"Leighton also saw some starting time last spring and this fall," Hughes said. "He was consistently improving on his defense every day out. He became an everyday starter this fall. We look for him to continue to push for playing time."
The Eagles will also benefit from the addition of juniors Luiz Cruz and Issac Brattin; sophomore James Hughlett; and freshmen Hunter Cook, Adam Humphrey, Jose Sanchez and Tyler Keeler.
"I think these guys will be able to help us a lot this season," Hughes said. "We need them to step up and challenge our starters and help everyone get better. I told the team that there are no safe starting spots on the roster. The best nine players are going to get to play every day."
Hughes thinks the first two weeks are going to be pivotal to his team's development.
"If we can get through the first two weeks of the season with games against Monett, Cassville, Seneca, Clever, Lamar and Diamond, all bigger schools and annual powers like Spokane and Marionville in class 2, and learn from these games and get some early wins, we could have a great spring," Hughes said.
Purdy opens the season at home with Monett on Saturday. First pitch is set for 10:30 a.m.