By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Jason Daugherty is well-traveled across the southwest Missouri baseball scene.
He made stops at Stockton, Walnut Grove, and El Dorado Springs before amassing the most wins of any coach at Springfield Catholic over the last 12 years.
After a string of 20-win seasons and a Class 3 State Championship in 2014, Daugherty takes over at Nixa for the 2018 season.
“The kids know me and I think they are excited about the season,” said Daugherty. “There will be some things I bring over, but if they’ve got some things that are going well here, I’m going to try to keep doing them. I want to combine the best of both worlds.”
Daugherty has been on the Nixa football coaching staff for more than a decade and is already familiar with a handful of players at his disposal this spring. He hopes to add a jolt to an Eagles program that has finished outside the top three in the COC-Large since winning the league in 2014.
Three All-COC selections return from last year’s 10-15 team that bowed out in the first round of districts. Nebraska commit Brett Hammit leads the triumvirate with a team-high .436 batting average, 18 runs, four home runs, and 13 stolen bases.
“He’s got a very live bat, good speed, and the ball comes off of it well. He’ll be in the thick of our order.”
Fellow senior Connor Matthews (C) will be another formidable bat after placing second on the team in batting average (.355), RBI (19), and hits (27) for an all-conference campaign.
Seniors Jack Sanders (P/1B), Stephen Belcher (CF), and Peyton Hannah (P/OF) also expect to be key to the batting order. Sanders, who will also see time on the mound, produced the second most hits last season with 25.
“We definitely have some things to fix mechanically, but if we do I think we’ll be solid one through nine.”
Nixa lost nearly 70 percent of its innings pitched from 2017 but do bring back unanimous All-COC choice Peyton Hannah. He went 2-2 as a junior with a 3.03 ERA and 24 strikeouts. He will be tasked with leading a pitching staff that expects to be steady across the board.
Sanders, Jake Uber, and Kyle Ramey combined for eight starts last year and are expected to fill out the starting rotation. Daugherty said it has been a process for one arm to separate from the pack, but that does allow him options when picking matchups.
“I think our pitching staff is very deep, but I’m not sure we have a true ace,” said Daugherty. “We have a lot of guys that are very solid and very similar.”
These seniors were sophomores when Nixa caught fire after an 11-18 regular season to reach the Class 5 quarterfinals in 2016. If things fall into place down the stretch once again, another wild run cannot be ruled out with a familiar and experienced face in Daugherty at the helm.