By Derek Shore (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The 2017 season marked yet another 20-win campaign for the Monett Cubs baseball program.
Following up the winningest season in program history, Monett posted a 21-5 overall record last spring, finishing second in the Big 8 Conference with their only conference loss coming to Aurora, who won the Class 4 state title.
So, you could say expectations are once again high for the Cubs, especially since they return a whopping 11 lettermen this spring and only lose four starters.
But four very key starters, including three All-State recipients in Ian Meyer, Jonathan Hawkins, and Mason Swearingen in addition to All-Conference Honorable Mention Zach Burgherr.
“Ian is one of the most competitive kids I’ve been around,” Monett head coach Michael Calhoun said. “His ability to push himself and motivate his teammates will be missed. Mason was a quiet young man that led by example. He’s a great kid who had a phenomenal all-around senior season.
“We knew Jonathan would continue to be a great asset on the mound, but he proved last year that he was almost as valuable at the plate, becoming our DH and being a big run producer. Zach stepped up for the team after a great All-State season the year before and sacrificed his body to be our catcher. He was a leader and big part behind how well we pitched during the season.”
Headlining the large group of returnees will be All-State Honorable Mention Corey Spain, who was one of Monett’s top pitchers and hit .333 with 25 total hits, six extra-base hits, and drove in 19 RBIs at the plate as a sophomore.
“Corey had a breakout season on both the mound and in the outfield,” Calhoun said. “He earned numerous accolades at both. I look for him to be our ace and a big run producer at the plate.”
Also, returning will be All-Conference Honorable Mention players Alex Rivera and Jake Bouchard. Rivera, a junior center fielder, batted .325 with 14 of his 25 hits going for extra-bases while knocking in 11 runs. Bouchard, a senior first baseman, hit .280 with 14 total hits and 10 RBIs.
“Alex did a great job for us both at the plate and in left field,” Calhoun said. “I look for continued growth and improvement from this talented junior. Jake stepped up and did a great job for us at
first base last season. I look for him to be one of our senior leaders this season.”
The other two returning starters will be sophomore second baseman Karter Brink and senior shortstop Brady Wright. Brink and Wright both look to improve on .246 averages from last season.
“Karter did a great job as a freshman starting most of the year at second base,” his coach said. “We look for him to compete at the middle infield and be a key part of our lineup. Brady is a two-year starter on the left side of the infield. He’s a scrappy player who is not only talented but a very hard worker.”
Other returning lettermen include seniors Jedd Anderson (outfielder), Dereck Morrison (infielder), Cameron Johnson (pitcher), and Zach Blevins (outfielder) in addition to juniors Dale Slater (shortstop/third baseman) and Alejandro Groomer (DH).
Anderson played a lot of left field last season and will look to earn that position back. Morrison will compete for time at second and third base. Johnson is expected to be a big contributor on the mound as well as pushing for an everyday position. Blevins will compete for time on the mound and to get at-bats.
Slater will look to take the third base position and get mound time. Groomer is seen by his coach as a potential middle of the order bat.
In terms of newcomers, Calhoun listed senior Angel Rabadan (outfielder) as well as juniors William Daingerfield (catcher), Carter Tinklepaugh (infielder), and Jacob Ingle (second baseman). The newcomers are rounded out by sophomores Gunnar Bradley (outfielder/pitcher), Cole McCollough (infielder), Gavin Bailey (pitcher), Wesley Merriman (pitcher/third baseman), Chet Butterworth (catcher), Ruben Dierker (outfielder), and Joey Semerad (catcher).
“I am looking forward to see what this group of young men can accomplish,” Calhoun said. “They have talent, experience, and the confidence they need to make up a very special team. I am looking forward to helping to guide them to meet their goals and meet our collective potential.
“The conference will continue to be very competitive. We will have several tough games throughout the schedule and look forward to each. As for districts, we are hoping to play up to our potential and compete for back to back district titles.”
Monett opens the season at Purdy where they will play the Eagles and Reeds Spring on March 17.