Marion coach Roger Schroeder isn’t known to be shy when talking baseball, and with 28 players turning out for practices, he has plenty to talk about.
“We’re going to run about 14 to 15 deep at the varsity level; we’ve legitimately got that many guys we can depend on to get quality time,” Schroeder said.
But having that kind of depth requires adjustments. Schroeder said his players will have to buy into preparing to be a starter but not always starting.
“They all nod their heads when I say it, but how are they going to be when I post the lineup card?” Schroeder said.
Numbers will be good to have at pitcher as teams adapt to more restrictive rules for pitch counts and days off.
Peyton Heidebrecht, Nathan Baldwin, and Corbin Wheeler each threw more than 20 innings last year and form the core of the staff. Add Seth Savage, a lefty who’s seen little action due to injuries the past two years, and experienced junior varsity thrower Chase Stringer to the mix, and the Warriors should be able to cope just fine, Schroeder said.
“We’re not asking them to give us complete games,” he said. “Give us an inning, give us two, and help us get to the next game. I think what the state is doing is great in theory, but I think you’re going to see some of these smaller schools get handcuffed.”
Nathan Baldwin and Garrett Hoffner will see time behind the plate, and Schroeder said he could create catcher-pitcher pairs that he could switch out together.
Corbin Wheeler will anchor the infield at shortstop, while Schroeder anticipates Cole Srajer and Sam Zinn getting time at second.
“Sam’s a really heady baseball player,” he said. “He had a little growth spurt, got a little bigger and faster. I can use Cole at several positions. He has played shortstop and outfield; he’s going to be a true utility guy for us this year.”
Srajer established himself last year as a savvy leadoff hitter.
“He doesn’t strike out a lot, and he’s not afraid to swing with two strikes,” Schroeder said.
When Heidebrecht isn’t pitching, he’ll handle the hot corner at third, and Schroeder hopes Newton senior transfer Jacob Woods will step up to fill in there.
Evann Heidebrecht and Dylan Deines are battling for the first base spot, and hitting prowess may be the deciding factor in who sees the most playing time.
“It’s going to be one of those two guys, or we’re going to have to look somewhere else,” Schroeder said. “We need more out of that spot.”
Mason Pedersen and Jacob Vondenkamp earned all-league recognition last year, and both are back in the outfield. Pedersen “can run and wreak havoc on bases,” Schroeder said, and will see some bullpen work. He called Seth Savage “one of our best outfielders as far as tracking baseballs.”
The team’s success will depend on players stepping up to be assertive leaders, Schroeder said.
“I think this group has a chance to be good,” he said. “I have not been shy about calling this group out for a lack of leadership. I don’t just mean guys playing well; that’s not leading. We need guys in practice who are holding other guys accountable. I’m not real big on seniors having to be leaders. I don’t care if you’re a freshman, if you’re a leader, you’re a leader.”
The Warriors will start the season Tuesday on the road at Council Grove.