Eagles hope to soar to special season
Purdy reloading after 15-9 campaign in 2021
No area baseball team may be reloading as much as Purdy, and the Eagles hope the talent and experience on their roster will line them up for a special season.
Joshua Hughes, Purdy baseball coach, said the culture of the program is strong, which is a tribute to the Eagles playing state champ Marionville to a 4-0 district contest.
“I think each one of our kids know the expectations set forth by the guys ahead of them,” he said. “We have been very fortunate to have great players over the years, and they continue to be a part of this program. Our guys see them at games, practices on occasion and even in the offseason. We want our kids to be hungry to achieve that end goal of a title.
“Marionville was a great team. We knew we had to play perfect to even have a chance. They had the pitching, hitting and defense to beat a lot of good teams. And they did on their way to a state title. They will be just as good this year.”
Hughes said to get over those Comets, one thing his team will have to do is win the mental side of the game.
“We take pride in working hard at practice and preparing for any type of game,” he said. “We feel like we can win with small ball, move guys with our mentality and then also feel like our defense and pitching can win us games. Wearing a pitch, diving, backing up bases all can lead to wins.”
Purdy lost four seniors from last year, Andy Aldaba, Osiel Aldava, Jake Brown and Clay Henderson. This year, the Eagles return eight, led by seniors Zach Henderson and Matt Cornelius.
“Zack will be in our outfield and be a consistent part of our lineup,” Hughes said. “We look for him to have a great senior year. Matt will be a big part of us this year and has shown good signs at second over the fall and offseason. “
Joining the seniors will be juniors Josh Brown, Bosten Goetz, Ezequiel Garcia, Trey Hughes, Travis Hughes and Alex Aldaba.
“Josh will move into a utility role and play a huge part of our defense plans,” Hughes said. “He will play anywhere and pitch for us in key situations. He had a great fall and has really worked hard this offseason. Bosten is our catcher. He has improved and added the throwing game to his arsenal this past fall. He is going to be in the top of the order and when he gets on, he will cause havoc with his speed. Being a leader with this team is also one of his assets. Zeke was in the top of our rotation as a sophomore and had a great year. He looks to build on that and become our guy on the mound this year. He has the drive and will continue to work on the physical and mental part of the game.
“Trey started the last half of the year for us as our DH and provided power in our lineup. He had some injuries this fall and missed half the fall and then most of basketball. If he stays healthy, he could be huge for us in the middle of the order. Travis started almost every game for us in left and has moved to Center this fall. He had a huge fall at the plate. Looking for him to take steps forward on the mound this spring. Alex has become one of our top/middle of the order guys and showed signs of being a huge part of our rotation last year as a sophomore and this fall as a junior. He will get a lot of innings on the mound and will be huge for us.”
The Eagles will also have a freshman within their ranks.
“Will [Henderson] can add some depth to our defense and play either corner infield spot,” Hughes said. “He showed us this fall he could play at the varsity level.”
Hughes said last season was one of learning for his team, and this year, there will be a clear focus at the plate.
“We are very fortunate that we have a fall baseball season,” Hughes said. “We get to see some things and work on a lot of fundamentals and developmental things. We will go into this spring pretty set defensively and pitching. But, we have a lot to work on offensively. We will probably will be hitting more than we have with any team in the past. This was a low area last year and this fall with this group. We need to work extremely hard at this part of the game.”
While the plate may need work, Hughes said the mound is ready to go.
“Pitching depth is huge with this team,” he said. “We feel like we have 6-8 guys that could see varsity innings.”
Hughes said the Eagles aim to handle adversity well and play a hard-nosed brand of ball.
“Mentally, how will we handle adversity and offense struggles early on?” he said. “If we can punch first, we have always been a good group. How will we handle being down or behind in a game? I want us to be known for being a hard-nosed, get dirty, wear a pitch, do what’s best for the team kind of team, and playing hard.”
Purdy will start the season at home with the Purdy Tournament from March 19-25. The home opener is on March 28 against Cassville at 5 p.m.