By Derek Shore
Head Coach: Michael Calhoun
2015-16 Record: 23-4 (6-1 in Big Conference play) – Beat by Carl Junction in Class 4, District 12 Championship
Top Players: Ian Meyer (SS/P), Zach Burgherr (C), Jonathan Hawkins (P/OF), Mason Swearingen (OF), and Brady Wright (INF)
Entering the 2015-16 season, the Monett Cubs had unfinished business as they returned another strong core of seniors and were looking to avenge a district title loss to Carl Junction.
Fast forward a year later; the Cubs are coming off their winningest season in program history with an overall record of 23-4 along with a share of the Big 8 title. However, the dreaded Bulldogs knocked them out in the district final game for the second straight spring.
The loss also spelled the end of the road for five seniors, most notably standout two-way player Cameron Witt (now playing at Crowder College, a JUCO college) and All-State catcher Brett Gollhofer.
“We had a very good season last year,” Monett head coach Michael Calhoun said. “We met many team goals, but not the ultimate goal of winning a district tourney and having the opportunity to advance in the state playoffs. It still felt like we didn’t maximize what we thought we all could have accomplished. We lost to an excellent Carl Junction team in the district title game.
“I believe we lost a lot of leaders both on and off the field.”
On the positive note for Calhoun, who has spent 17 seasons at the helm for the Cubs, is that’s there plenty of promising talent returning for Monett faithful.
Headlining the group, shortstop/pitcher Ian Meyer, who compiled a 5-0 record with 1.67 ERA on the mound last season. Meyer, a senior now, hit .418 with five extra-base hits, 33 total hits, 33 RBI, and nine stolen bases as well.
One of the most prolific multi-sport athletes in the Ozarks, Meyer earned All-State honors as an infielder in addition to appearing on the All-Ozone team as well.
“Ian will be at shortstop and pitcher for us this season,” Calhoun said. “I look for him to be one of our main leaders.”
Meyer will be complemented by fellow All-State honoree Zach Burgherr, who had a .446 average with a whopping 11 two-sackers, 41 total hits, 16 RBI, and 24 stolen bases.
Coming off an All-State season as a utility player, Burgherr will step into a more prominent role this spring, taking over the duties behind the plate for Gollhofer.
“Zach will be our catcher this season,” Calhoun said. “He was a jack of all trades and one of our best hitters last year. I look for that to continue.”
Another senior, who earned All-State honors is outfielder Mason Swearingen. Swearingen hit .347 with seven extra-base hits, 33 total hits, 15 RBI, and swiped eight bags last season.
“Mason will be our center fielder and one of our top of the lineup guys,” Calhoun said. “He had a great year both offensively and defensively, and he has continued to improve since then.”
The last remaining senior is pitcher/outfielder Jonathan Hawkins. Hawkins, an All-Conference pitcher, went 6-1 on the bump with a 1.74 ERA.
“Jonathan will be one of our top starters on the mound,” Calhoun said. “I’m also looking for him to be one of our outfielders when he doesn’t pitch and be a middle of the order bat.”
The final returning starter will be junior infielder Brady Wright. Wright batted .333 with seven extra-base hits, 24 total hits, 17 RBI, and stole six bags last spring. He will be one of the Cubs main infielders while also seeing time on the mound.
To round out the returnees includes juniors Jedd Anderson (OF), Cameron Johnson (1B/P) and sophomores Alex Rivera (INF), Corey Spain (P/OF), and Alejandro Groomer. In addition, Calhoun also listed eight newcomers waiting for their shot at varsity.
“I am very excited for the upcoming season,” Calhoun said. “I think if we compete and play up to our potential there should be no reason for us not to be playing for a conference and district title. We have a very good schedule and big games throughout.
“I think the new pitch rule will make the decisions more important than usual when factoring rainouts and number of games at different levels.”
Monett opens the season at home on Sat., Mar. 18 as part of a doubleheader against Purdy and Spokane.