By John Miller
Many coaches will say that their team’s success will come down to two things: pitching and defense.
For the Republic Tigers, that’s exactly the case.
“I think we will have to rely on our pitching and defense to keep us in games,” said Republic coach Howard Quigley, who has won 454 games in 30 years of coaching. “Offensively, we are going to have to manufacture some runs. We are not a team that is going to have a lot of extra-base hits, so we will have to execute on offense.”
Last year, the Tigers went 11-13 and tied for fifth in the Central Ozark Conference with a 3-4 record. They relied heavily on their top two starting pitchers: Chandler Coates and Jansen McQuerter. Coates went 5-2 with a 1.28 ERA and is now pitching collegiately for the University of New Mexico. McQuerter was 3-5 with a 2.34 ERA. He’s now playing for College of the Ozarks.
“We relied heavily on our pitching last year because we had two really good starting pitchers,” Quigley said. “Ultimately, our success depended on how many runs we were able to score on a given day.”
Although the Tigers did lose Coates and McQuerter to graduation, along with five other seniors, they return three starters, led by senior OF Austin Atkins.
“Austin will be our leadoff hitter once again this year,” Quigley said. “He has an OBP of .450 the last two years, so he knows how to get on base and set the table for the guys behind him.”
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Atkins hit .253 with five doubles and nine driven in last year.
Also returning is senior IF/P Josh Gentry, senior OF/P Blake Messier, senior OF Maverick Lopez, and junior IF Landin Sigman.
Gentry hit .250 with five doubles last year at the plate and went 0-2 on the mound with a 4.11 ERA.
“He should provide some pop for us in the middle of the lineup and be one of our better pitchers this year,” Quigley said.
Messier was 1-1 on the mound last year with a 0.57 ERA while Sigman hit .258 with six doubles and 10 RBIs.
“Blake will be one of the leaders of our pitching staff,” Quigley said. “He will also have a chance to be part of our outfield. Maverick played for us in the outfield last year and will have the opportunity to do so again. Landin should hit in the middle of our order. He has the ability to hit for some power and be a run-producer for us.”
The Tigers will also get a boost from several newcomers who played JV ball last year. Senior P/OF Chase Igert, juniors C/1B Max Fricks, P/IF A.J. Calhoun, and Cameron Beck, and sophomores C/IF Gus Bauer, UT Jaden Duvall, P/IF Clayton Crowley, and P/OF Tyler Cavener should all contribute at the varsity level this spring.
“We seem to have developed better team chemistry this year, and I think that is going to pay off for us this season,” Atkins said. “We are looking forward to the opportunity to play together this spring.”