A first glance at the teams around the lake

CAMDENTON LAKERS

From Head Coach Bryce Durnin

Class/District: Class 5, District 9

2019 Record or Finish: 17-10, District Champions

Moved or graduated athletes: Riley Stidham (First Team All-Conference and First Team All-District infielder), Luke Lockhert (First Team All-District outfielder and All-Conference Honorable Mention pitcher), Garrett Stamper (Second Team All-Conference pitcher, First Team All-Conference designated hitter and First Team All-District pitcher), Dylan Thompson (Second Team All-Conference and First Team All-District pitcher), Cole Linch and Preston Crabtree

Top returners and any accolades: Senior Brandon Pasley (Second Team All-Conference and All-District infielder), senior Andrew DiBello, senior Drake Miller (First Team All-District utility) sophomore Conner Miller, Mitch Orozco, senior Jaden Younker, junior Chance Rhoades, junior Riley Carpenter, junior Cody Hendrix, junior Cesar Chaparro and junior Brady Ford

Q: What are you looking forward to as your team returns for a brand new season?

A: We have rattled off two winning seasons in a row. The seniors are ready to continue the winning ways in Camdenton and try to get themselves back in the district title game. I have always considered being in the district championship game as a measure of success. I think it should be the minimum expectation every year. The 2020 season promises to be positive with a lot of players that like to play the game the right way. I hope to facilitate another winning season with this group.

Q: Are there any definite strengths with this team at this point in time? 

A: Winning 17 games in back-to-back seasons has a lot to do with the returning seniors.

Brandon Pasley has been the starting varsity shortstop since his freshman year, logging nearly 90 competitions in his three years as a Laker. Averaging more than a 90 percent fielder rating, Brandon will be expected to continue to be the defensive cornerstone and bat at the top of the lineup as he batted over .400 last year most of the season.

Andrew DiBello  is another returning starter and is a big reason for our growing success. Andrew does a lot for our team that is not recorded in the stat book and continues to set the tone for work ethic and what it means to be a great teammate. He is projected to play outfield again, hit at the top of the lineup and will also be needed to pitch with one of the strongest arms on the team to navigate the schedule competitively.

Drake Miller will be another impact player who had a breakout season as a junior batting third and finding a home at first base. Drake batted over .500 in the district tournament and was a big reason for the strong finish to the season. He is very athletic, can play anywhere and may be needed to pitch.

Another name to be familiar with on the mound is Jaden Younker who will add to the pitching depth as games get stacked up. His position on the staff could be key to another winning season. He has the ability to start and complete games but also has the stuff to eat innings and help us get through long stretches. His ability to throw strikes and challenge hitters is his greatest strength. 

There are a handful of players to watch this season and how these players navigate earning their spots could be crucial to the success of the Lakers. 

Q: As the season goes along, what are you hoping the team can improve upon?

A: Solid pitching has been the name of the Lakers' game the past four years. For the first time, pitching will be a major question mark going into the season. We have three sophomore arms and will need them to compete all year and give us a chance to win. 

Q: Are there any specific goals and what would you say the keys to success are for this year?

A: Now that we have been able to flip our record, the Lakers need to prove that we can do three things. One, compete in the top half of the Ozark Conference. Two, win more games than we lose, and three, finish the season getting better. Getting better as the season goes along is a true indicator of the health of our program. 

OSAGE INDIANS

From Head Coach David Flaspohler

Class/District: Class 4, District 10

2019 Record or Finish: 10-12

Moved or graduated athletes: Robert Custer, Dalton Depeé, Braden McLaughlin, Trey Rassenfoss, Gunner Vandervort and Traygen Whittle

Top returners or any accolades: Junior Andrew Bryant, (First Team All-Conference and All-District) and seniors Michael Lasater, Zechariah Burdette, Aaron Hancock, Elijah Stark, Austin Duncan and Cameron Heiser

Q: What are you looking forward to as your team returns for a brand new season?

A: We have 13 freshmen, three sophomores, four juniors and six seniors. We are looking forward to seeing the growth of our freshman and sophomores as they will be led by our 10 upperclassmen learning how to be a productive member of a team. 

Q: Are there any definite strengths with this team at this point in time? 

A: We look to utilize our speed, not only on offense but defense as well. We are learning quickly, the last two weeks, the importance of communication, confidence and commitment. 

Q: As the season goes along, what are you hoping the team can improve upon?

A: We look to develop our young arms on the mound as they will eat up some innings for us. 

Q: Are there any specific goals and what would you say the keys to success are for this year?

A: Our keys to success are controlling our attitudes, effort and actions on and off the field. 

ELDON MUSTANGS

From Head Coach Chad Hinds

Class/District: Class 4, District 10

2019 Record or Finish: 4-19

Moved or graduated athletes: Dawson Brandt, Charlie Mays and Landon Wall

Top returners and any accolades: Senior Corbin Harrison (All-Conference and All-District), senior Zach Graham, senior Clayton Moore, junior Fisher Snelling, junior Braydy Hill and sophomore Jason Holland

Q: What are you looking forward to as your team returns for a brand new season?

A: We will be a very young team this year with very little experience. We have three (Harrison, Snelling and Moore) returning who started every game last year. The way it looks right now, we will have freshman Kasen Bashore at shortstop and freshman Jude Rader at second. These two kids are very good defensively and they will have their work cut out for them this year. As long as they can stay mentally strong, I believe their futures will be bright. At the corner sports, we will have either sophomores Ben Cline or Jason Holland playing every day at third and junior Fisher Snelling at first. When Snelling is on the bump, we will have two guys who can play first in either sophomore Colton Phillips or freshman Gage Williams. Although we will be young defensively on the infield, I think it will be one of the strongest I have had in my seven years being part of Mustang baseball. 

As far as the outfield goes, we will have two seniors, Clayton Moore and Zach Graham, and possibly junior Braydy Hill or sophomore Dallas hardy starting every day. In addition, quite possibly freshman Haiden Barrett may see some time out there as well, depending on who is producing. We will have some good speed out there and guys with some good arms. 

For pitching, Snelling and Harrison are back this year along with freshman Jason McGhay making them our top three starters. We will also be utilizing several other guys on the bump this year as well which includes sophomores Ben Cline and Jason Holland and senior Zack Graham coming in as relief and also possibly a few spot starts. Coach (Jacob) Koelling has put in a lot of time with these guys and the guys continue to work hard. Other notable pitchers will be sophomore Colton Phillips and freshmen Gage Williams and Haiden Barrett. 

Offensively, as of now it is not the strongest offensive attack I have had as we will lack some power. However, as long as the guys can have a good approach at the plate and do the little things right, such as moving players and playing good situational ball, I believe we will be alright. We will have to have confidence and stay strong mentally. If the guys can do that, we can hopefully make things happen. I am looking for Harrison to have another outstanding year offensively along with Snelling and Holland. We have some guys in the lineup who lack varsity experience, but I believe they will be able to handle their given roles and it will be exciting to see what they can all do. 

Q: Are there any specific goals and what would you say the keys to success are for this year?

A: So far, the guys are buying into the program and have worked extremely hard not only during practice but in the offseason. What I am proud of the most is the work ethic and their positive attitudes. With these things, it should make for an exciting season. 

VERSAILLES TIGERS

From Head Coach Jason Ollison

Class/District: Class 3, District 13

2019 Record or Finish: 6-17

Moved or graduated athletes: Wyatt Espinosa, Colbey Boicourt, Andy Clemens, Kade Marriott and Trenton Owsley

Top returners and any accolades: Kaden McGinnis and Brayden Morrison

Q: What are you looking forward to as your team returns for a brand new season?

A: We are most looking forward to being able to get out and practice on our new facility every day. We have been beyond blessed with an all-weather synthetic field and we are very excited to get to take advantage of it. Being able to work on things every day outside on the field will help our players improve at a very rapid rate. It will also give us a chance to evaluate our players earlier in the season, so hopefully we can be ready to go when the first game gets here. 

Q: Are there any definite strengths with this team at this point in time? 

A: Our biggest strength is going to be our depth and versatility. We have a lot of guys who can play a lot of positions, including pitch. I think that and our energy and attitude are things we will be able to count on every single game with this group. They really enjoy each other and that makes them enjoyable to coach. 

Q: As the season goes along, what are you hoping the team can improve upon?

A: We will need to continue to improve on the mound. We have some guys who have a lot of experience pitching at the varsity level, and it is going to be imperative they continue to show improvement on the bump. In the same light, the younger guys who we are going to ask to step and fill the spots left by the guys that graduated, will need to work to be comfortable in those roles for us to be successful. 

Q: Are there any specific goals and what would you say the keys to success are for this year?

A: We are focusing on the things we can control the most this season and those are approach, attitude, intensity and toughness. If we can be consistent with those four things every day, whether in practice or on game day, it will have been a successful year for us. 

MACKS CREEK PIRATES

From head Coach Jason Trusty

Class/District: Class 1, District 8

2019 Record or Finish: 12-7, district runner-up

Moved or graduated athletes: Oscar Cortez, Carsen Strutz, Zane Whitworth and Chris Willey

Top returners and any accolades: Senior Hunter Lane (First Team All-Conference, First Team All-District and All-State Honorable Mention designated hitter/utility), senior Cole Register (First Team All-Conference, First Team All-District and All-State Honorable Mention catcher), senior Colton Walter (All-District Honorable Mention), junior Grant English (All-Conference Honorable Mention, First Team All-District and All-State Honorable Mention outfielder), junior Tanner Smith and junior Trever Smith (All-Conference Honorable Mention and All-District Honorable Mention)

Q: What are you looking forward to as your team returns for a brand new season?

A: Getting back on the diamond. With each season brings a new group together and we're eager to get out there and start working on the chemistry. We have a good group of guys coming back and a good group of guys coming out this year. We are working towards being ready to compete from day one and hopefully have a successful season. 

Q: Are there any definite strengths with this team at this point in time? 

A: Numbers are a strength this year as we have 22 guys that have come out and stuck through week one. This is currently the biggest squad in terms of numbers for us since I've been here. Another strength is we have six of our starters from last year's district runner-up squad. I think that our mixture of experience and guys coming to push them will help us in the long run this season.

Q: As the season goes along, what are you hoping the team can improve upon?

A: We have to better defensively than we were last year. We had a lot of games where the wheels came off defensively and we lost a few we could have won or played closer and competed. I feel that if we can get better from start to finish there, we will be in the games we play. Our pitching will also need to grow as we go. All of our pitching experience is either junior or senior so we will be relying on our younger guys to work and develop throughout the course of the year. Our depth will hopefully help provide that for uas as the season rolls on. 

Q: Are there any specific goals and what would you say the keys to success are for this year?

A: Our goals are always pretty simple. We want to compete night in and night out from start to finish. We want to compete for a Polk County League (PCL) conference title as well. The ultimate goal for us is to get to and win a district championship and get back to the state tournament. With all that we have, the goal is to grow as a team and work together to accomplish these goals. 

CLIMAX SPRINGS COUGARS

From Head Coach Derek Carnahan

Class/District: Class 1, District 8

2019 Record or Finish: 0-16

Moved or graduated athletes: Blake Baum (All-District) and Jake Reed (All-District 2018)

Top returners and any accolades: Senior Jacob Bryant, sophomore Sam Cline and junior Cole Smith

Q: What are you looking forward to as your team returns for a brand new season?

A: We have 15 players out for baseball this year with seven returning from last year, three of which are seniors that have some experience playing. So far, practices have been productive. It is great to have new players and I am looking forward to seeing them develop and contribute to the team. 

Q: Are there any definite strengths with this team at this point in time? 

A: I believe our strengths this year would be our speed and defense. I feel very confident that our defense can keep us in the game. Cole Smith will be behind the plate as much as possible. He has improved immensely and I believe that he will step up and be a leader for this team. Jacob Bryant is our returning starting shortstop. He improved so much throughout the season and will be the key to our overall defense on the field. 

Q: As the season goes along, what are you hoping the team can improve upon?

A: We have struggled at the plate in the past. That is something we have been working on. Hopefully, our returning players' experience from last year can carry them into this year. 

Q: Are there any specific goals and what would you say the keys to success are for this year?

A: I have set goals for our pitchers as I do every year. It all starts with throwing strikes and being consistent. I believe we have a group of pitchers who are able to reach their goals I have set this year.