By Derek Shore (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Head Coach: Byron Richardson
2015-16 Record: 23-5 W-L – Eliminated by Purdy in Class 2 sectionals
Top Players: Logan Sorrell (P/3B), Caleb Hall (Utility), Blake Batson (1B), Caleb Seaman (C/OF/P), and Luke Burk (SS/P)
Coming off their first district title in nearly three decades, Galena will once again be a force to be reckoned with, receiving votes to be state ranked in the coaches’ preseason Class 2 poll this spring.
On the other hand, the Bears, who boasted a 23-5 overall during the 2015-16 season, will look to repeat as Class 2, District 11 Champions without two major cogs. They lost seniors Jake Baker (all-state pitcher, who’s now playing at College of the Ozarks), Jake LaFevers (1st-team all-conference and all-district performer), and Luke Vert (2nd-team all-district performer) to graduation.
“Jake (Baker) was dominant for us on the mound last season,” Galena head coach Byron Richardson said. “It will be hard to lose a pitcher that threw that well for us. Jake (LaFevers) was a great defensive shortstop and a major bat in our lineup hitting in the four-spot. Lucas was a great leader helping keep everyone feeling relaxed on the team and did a great job as a second baseman.”
The cupboard is not bare by any means, though.
The reigning Southwest Central League Conference Coach of the Year returns six starters to the diamond, and seven lettermen total, headlined by all-state utility man Logan Sorrell. Sorrell, a Southwest Baptist signee, went 8-3 with 1.32 ERA on the mound last season. At the plate, the third baseman hit .337 with eight doubles, 29 hits, and 21 RBI for the Bears.
“Logan is our ace and really sets the tone with his enthusiasm,” Richardson said. “He will also hit in the middle of the lineup.”
Three other returning seniors include Caleb Hall (all-conference and all-district honoree), Blake Batson, and Caleb Seaman (all-conference honoree).
Hall, a top of the order utility man, batted .314 with four extra-base hits, 15 RBI, and 19 stolen bases last spring. Batson only hit .280 with the bat last year, but is one of the better defensive backstops in the SWCL and is expected to make noise at the plate this season. Seaman struggled to the tune of a .155 average as a junior, but can play multiple positions and is athletic with a strong arm.
Rounding out the returning starters will be junior Coby Sartin and sophomore Luke Burk. As a pitcher, Sartin posted a 4-1 record with 0.91 ERA while hitting .254 with 14 RBI from the outfield. Burk, who will settle in the middle of the order, hit .293 with four extra-base hits, 22 RBI, and 23 thefts last spring as well.
Seniors Dallas Besperat and Logan Stewart will also return to action for Galena. Besperate will see innings on the mound and add power with his bat while Stewart improved defensively in the outfield.
Top newcomers include seniors Dillion Gold (2B) and junior Austin Holt (utility) as well as sophomore Caleb McCullough (2B/OF). Gold’s a transfer from Hurley and will add depth to the Bears lineup. Holt, a move-in from Spokane, can play multiple positions and will hit for pop in the middle of the order. McCullough will be a threat on the bases.
“We return a lot of key players and have several guys ready to fill in,” Richardson said. “We need to stay healthy for a chance to repeat as district champions. Our conference will be very tough and will have to play our best baseball to win almost every game.
“We have a difficult schedule to try to prepare us for these tough situations and hope to see that pay off come districts. We have a loaded district this year and will have to be playing at a high level come district time.”
Galena opens the spring season in the Cassville Jamboree, running from Mon., Mar. 20 through Thur., Mar. 23.