Editor’s note: Extracurricular activities, including athletics, for Jefferson County public schools have been postponed until at least April 23. The Leader will present spring sports previews on the presumption that the seasons will be held this spring, with a different team in the county featured at 2 p.m. each day. For updated information, continue to check myleaderpaper.com.
Even after losing a dozen seniors from a team that finished 13-7 last season, Fox head baseball coach Neil Richardson seems fairly confident about his Warriors in 2020.
Richardson said he likes his pitching staff, led by senior Bryce Wear, who went 6-2 with a 1.83 earned-run average last season. He said junior Clay Street may fit in nicely as the No. 2 hurler.
“Bryce was looking better in the early workouts than last year,” Richardson said. “I think he can be one of the better pitchers in the area, like he showed last season. Be the horse we kind of have to ride. And Street had a really solid sophomore year, which is tough at the varsity level.”
Behind that twosome, Richardson will call upon Chase Rhodes, Henry Balmer, Jack Michel, Chase Blumer, Kelton Sullinger and Kyle Raney to fill some innings on the mound.
Last spring’s top hitters Sean Cleary, Cole Elwood, Caden Hastings and Joey Johnson have graduated, so where will the offense come from?
“That’s certainly a valid question,” Richardson said. “We were trying to figure things out in the early practices. Bryce was a .308 hitter last year in an ample number of at-bats (38, with a total of 49 plate appearances). Colby Reese and Brock Inman need to improve their offense from last year, but there’s no doubt we lost a lot. It’s a real concern, but something you deal with when you lose 12 guys.”
Richardson said he was starting to sort out the lineup when the season was postponed.,
“We were just getting to the point of figuring out who we are, and what we have, when things got shut down. But we have Colby looking to hold down center field and Brock played a very solid shortstop last year. Garrett Hulsey was trying to hold down first base, and he has a great opportunity as a sophomore. Zach Pottgen is somebody whom I think is going to spend a great deal of time behind the plate and Ricky Wallace will be a middle infielder for us.
“What you’re trying to do in a season is change the culture, and we’ve got some expectations, although I don’t want to put a number on those,” he said.
Richardson said the postponement is something all coaches are trying to deal with.
“We don’t really know where things stand, as far as if we’re going to have a season,” Richardson said. “There’s no way to sugarcoat that, but we’re also trying to keep in mind the athletes, the students. They’re the most important thing on our minds now, not the baseball season. The only thing I can compare this to, even a little bit, is my first year as a coach (in softball at Mark Twain High School in Center, Mo.). That was when 9/11 happened.
“We just have to let our guys know that we’re here for them, and hope we’ll be able to have a little bit of a season. What I’ve told them is to make sure they focus on their schoolwork, and baseball is a little down the list, something I don’t say very often. Maybe they’ll get out and play some catch, hit in a cage somewhere and stretch out their arms, but not be around a lot of people in so doing.”
The Missouri State High School Activities Association has said it will work with local school districts and county health authorities to determine whether the season will start, and when.