By Dana Harding/For OzarksSportsZone.com
The Morrisville baseball team had a taste of success in 2016, notching 17 wins before falling to Liberal in its district title game.
The Panthers take the field in 2017 looking to build on that success after graduating four starters.
Key in that group is standout pitcher Nick Beavers.
Head coach Justin Crumpley called Beavers one of the best competitors he’s ever coached.
“We will really miss Nick’s leadership and intensity on the field,” Crumpley said. “He was our big game guy on the mound and at the plate. When it mattered the most, he was the guy we went to. We really need for someone this year to step up to take his role.”
While it will be a challenge to replace Beavers’ leadership and productivity, Morrisville’s cupboard is far from barren.
Two-year starter Dominic Canovi moves into a primary role for the Panthers both at the plate and on the mound. Canovi hit .360 last spring with 4 triples and 27 RBIs.
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“We will look to Dominic to be our No. 1 on the mound and handle centerfield again this season,” Crumpley said. “Dominic is one of the more dynamic players that we have had in recent years both at the plate and one the mound.”
Second baseman Hadden Grant leads the Panther attack from the top spot in the batting order.
“We will look to Hadden at the top of the lineup this season,” Crumpley said. “He is a great contact hitter and, with his ability to get on base, is a great tool for our offense.”
Shortstop Gavin Lombas anchors Morrisville’s defense.
“One of the most athletic players on the team, Gavin has been our starting shortstop for the past three seasons,” Crumpley said.. “He is the defensive leader on the field, and we expect him to have a tremendous senior year at the plate this season.”
Newcomers to the Panther lineup include third baseman, Jacob McCroskey, outfielder Braden Grant and speedster Austin Francka.
“We are very excited about the opportunity that lays before us this spring,” Crumpley said. “Although we did lose four starters, we have some young talent on the field and we are confident that this is a reloading year; not a rebuilding year. Our expectations are nothing less than another run at the district title game.”
For a district title run to occur, Crumpley’s group will need to find away to utilize a bevy of team speed in the lineup, as well as adjust to the recent addition of MSHSAA pitching rules.
“With the new pitch count restrictions, we are continuing to develop a lot of pitchers to help give us an advantage on the mound and defensively,” Crumpley said. “Our biggest obstacles will being getting some of the underclassmen as much experience as possible as quickly as possible.”
The Panthers open the season March 21 at home against Springfield Central.