‘Cats stalking district title

Cassville returns 6 starters from 12-win team

By Kyle Troutman ktroutman@cassville-democrat.com

With six returning starters and the first district win in eight years, the Cassville baseball team is setting championship goals this season.

Shawn Trent, Cassville baseball coach, said his Wildcats bring in a wealth of experience this season and have a chance to build it to something big.

“Our expectation is to improve on last season and find consistency in our play,” he said. “ Last year’s group showed that if we are playing well we can compete with anyone. Last season was the first time Cassville had won a district game in eight years. I know we would like to take it a step further and make it to the championship game. I believe this group is capable of doing that.”

Returning starters for Cassville include two seniors, pitcher/outfielder Hunter James and infielder/outfielder Danny Roper; three juniors, catcher Simon Gates, pitcher/shortstop Evan Butler, and pitcher/centerfielder Bodee Rose; and a sophomore, utility/designated hitter Colton Roark.

“Hunter is a left handed pitcher and did a wonderful job for us at the end of last year,” Trent said. “He pitched in some big games, including the district semifinal. Hunter did a great job at the plate and was a tough out for anyone. He can get on base in many different ways. When he doesn’t pitch, he will play outfield for us.

“Danny is an athletic kid and a hard worker. He was a guy we thought could help us in a number of ways. He sometimes ran bases, he could play the outfield, he could play third base, he can catch, and he pinch hit — we would like to find him a more permanent role this season. But, knowing the kind of player he is, it’s nice having someone like that that can do everything.”

Gates is a leader on the team according to Trent, solid behind the plate and working well with pitching staff.

“He came through for us in several games at the plate and kept getting better throughout the season,” Trent said. “Evan played shortstop for us last year and is another guy the players look up to. He has a lot of experience and is a guy who makes everyone around him better. He led off for us last season and led the team in hits, batting average, and stolen bases. Last year, he was nursing an arm thing, so we didn’t get to use him near as much on the mound. We hope to see him more this season and could be our go to guy on the mound.

“Bodee played centerfielder and hit three-hole for us last year. He is very athletic, fast, and has a strong arm. Bodee led our team in several offensive categories. He also pitched very well and is another guy we will use in the rotation.”

Other returners looking to plug into the lineup include a quartet of seniors: infielder/outfielder Dakota Bowen, pitcher/infielder Cadyn Smith, infielder/outfielder Joseph Reuter and pitcher CJ Rose.

Two newcomers may also find their way onto the diamond, freshmen Easton Hughes as a first baseman/outfielder/pitcher, and freshman Masin Bryan as a pitcher/infielder.

“Easton is a freshman and may have more experience than even some our juniors and seniors,” Trent said. “Easton comes from a baseball family, and with his experience and skills could compete for a job early. He is a left-handed pitcher who can hit and play defense. We are looking forward to see how he will mix in with our returning group.

“Masin Bryan is another freshman the coaches and I are keeping an eye on. He is a guy that could earn time. Watching him in the summer, he has a lot of ability. He has a really strong arm and looks very comfortable in the field. He primarily plays shortstop with his summer team and can pitch as well.”

Trent said the Wildcats will rely on its strengths this season, two of which stand out.

“I think are biggest strengths are our athleticism and experience,” he said. “We have six returning starters, and although only two of those returners are seniors, we have a lot of younger guys who earned playing time last year. Our freshman played junior high baseball last spring, and many of them have played on the same summer teams together over the years. I think this will be a very experienced group of players.”

Trent is also gaining experience in his role, as this is his second season at the helm of Cassville.

“We have such a great group of players and parents,” he said. “It makes things so much easier when you have the buy-in from parents and players. The players are very hard working and want to win. That just makes it easy as a coach to come to the field every day knowing they are going to give you their best. The kids seem to really enjoy each other and the other coaches.”

Cassville opens the season at home on Friday, hosting McAuley Catholic, and the 17th Cassville Classic/Mid-America Turf Tournament will be held March 18-22.