By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Curt Plotner already enjoyed living and working in Republic.
He said: “I work with some of the best people possible, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Most importantly, I want to be able to make a difference in the lives of our players.”
So when Republic needed a new head baseball coach, he jumped at the opportunity.
The former assistant coach takes over for longtime Republic head coach Howard Quigley. Plotner joined Republic’s coaching staff in 2010 after spending four years at Drury.
Quigley retired in 2017 following a 30-year coaching career, about 20 of which were at Republic. He won 458 career games, a state championship (Billings-1990) and was inducted into the Missouri Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2013.
As he takes over a program that finished 4-17 overall last season, Plotner wants to emphasize pitching and defense.
“I definitely think that we are going to be making some changes in each aspect of the game, but we are really going to focus on our defense this spring,” Plotner said. “I once heard a coach say that if you can hold your opponent to no runs, you only need to score one. We are really going to place an emphasis on our pitching and defense.”
Republic welcomes back five starters and eight letter-winners overall.
Senior Landin Sigman (1B/P) is Republic’s top returning hitter; he had a .284 batting average, 21 total hits and 10 RBIs a year ago.
Senior Cameron Beck will play multiple positions; he had 18 total hits, six RBIs and a .278 batting average last season.
“Landin will hit in the middle of our order and hopefully have the opportunity to drive in plenty of runs. He is also going to be a key pitcher out of our bullpen this spring,” Plotner said. “Cameron can play multiple positions as well as give us some quality innings on the mound. He will also hit in the middle of our lineup.”
Senior pitcher Tim McWilliams will see more innings on the mound. He had a 2.89 ERA in limited action last season.
“Tim should be one of our leaders on the pitching staff,” Plotner said. “He mixes up his speeds really well and controls the bottom of the strike zone
The lineup will feature at least three juniors who can play multiple positions: Clayton Crowley (IF/P), Tyler Cavener (OF/P) and Jaden Duvall (IF/OF).
Senior A.J. Calhoon will be one of Republic’s top pitchers while another senior, Austin Fahey, will be the team’s unofficial utility man.
Junior Jacob Crosswhite is expected to start at catcher.
A trio of sophomores – Easton Prevo (IF), Riley Sigman (OF) and Nicholas Rose (P/IF) – bring depth and versatility.
“For us to be successful, we are really going to focus on pitching and defense,” Plotner said. “Offensively, we are going to have to do the little things and execute to score runs.”
The Tigers graduated four senior starters from last season’s team: Austin Atkins (OF/P), Josh Gentry (IF/P), Blake Messier and Chase Igert.
Atkins and Gentry were all-conference selections and signed to play at Park University and Longview Community College, respectively. Atkins had a career on-base percentage of over .500 and led the Tigers in RBIs (17) last season.
Republic opens the season at the Lael Leadoff Classic, which takes place March 17-22.