The Marion High School baseball team is going to be a young squad for the 2011 season.
There are six seniors on the team but Vu Hoai Nguyen and Luis Esteban are exchange students who started playing baseball competitively this season.
The team also has four juniors, but freshmen and sophomores are destined to see plenty of innings this year.
“I hope that lights a fire under the older kids to work hard to stay in the lineup,” coach Roger Schroeder said. “I want guys to make it tough on me to make a lineup.”
Schroeder is also a newcomer, in his first year in the dugout as head coach. The seniors on this team have had three coaches in the past three seasons. However, despite all of the team’s inexperience, Schroeder said the team has the talent to wreak havoc on its opposition.
“It’s not like I’m coming into an empty cupboard,” Schroeder said.
The early strength for the team is its pitching staff anchored by sophomores Austin Pedersen, Jacob Harper, and Ethan Hett. The three pitchers all started last year and feature a variety of pitches. Each pitcher has a nasty curve ball that can leave hitters baffled.
“We’ll lean on them a lot this year,” Schroeder said of his young pitchers. “We need guys that will consistently throw strikes.”
Senior Blake Crawford and freshman Grif Case may also see time on the mound during the season.
The focus for Schroeder is the up-the-middle defense. If his right shoulder has fully recovered from surgery this past summer, senior Matt Sprowls has a lock on the catching position.
“He’s a strong kid,” Schroeder said of Sprowls. “He wants to do everything to his full physical potential.”
Senior Corey Seacat will also be entrenched at shortstop at the beginning of the season.
However, second base and center field are wide-open competitions for the Warriors. Harper and Pedersen played sporadically at both middle infield positions last season. Freshman Dylan Seacat has an early bead on the second-base job. Schroeder said the younger of the two Seacat brothers has a good understanding of the game and approach at the plate.
While Pedersen and Harper could also play center field when not on the mound, junior Cole Lewman may be the most suited for the position. Lewman played mostly in right field for the Warriors last season and he gradually picked up more innings as the season progressed. Schroeder said Lewman is athletic enough to fill in for the departure of Adam Maag.
Another position that is mostly locked down is first base with junior David Helmer patrolling the right side of the infield. Helmer can also play third base in the right situation.
Helmer and Lewman are players Schroeder expects to break out at the plate. Sitting behind Brian Fruechting most of the season last year, Schroeder said Helmer is hungry to show he is worthy of an everyday starting job. Helmer has the strength and plate coverage to become a prototypical cleanup hitter.
Cole and freshman brother Zach Lewman could also be fixtures in the middle of the order for the Warriors with their combination of size and speed.
Also bringing speed to the Warriors is senior Les Riggs. Schroeder said that Riggs is likely an outfielder for the Warriors and could hit at the top of the lineup, possibly behind Corey Seacat in the two hole, replacing the scrappy at-bats of graduated senior Colton Olson.
Like second base and center field, third base is a position that is wide open at the beginning of the season. With the versatility of several Warriors, the position could change hands throughout the season.
The Warriors begin the season Tuesday against Herington at home and then travel April 1 to Moundridge.