By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After coming up just short in the Class 2 District 10 championship game, the Norwood Pirates are looking to use their experience to make a return trip and get the job done.
“All of our boys have been to the district championship their whole high school career,” said second-year head coach Drew Miller. “We know how to get there, now we have to get past it and bring it home to Norwood.”
Gone from last year’s district runner-up are Tyler Prichard, A.J. Barnes and Lukas Brown.
Prichard was a first-team All-Summit Conference and All-District selection, who hit .328 with one home run and 14 runs batted in. He also went 4-2 on the mound with a 3.89 earned run average.
Barnes hit .269 with 11 RBIs and was 3-1 with a 3.67 ERA. Brown drove in 11 runs and was 12-for-12 in stolen bases, and went 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA.
“Their defensive play will truly be missed,” Miller said. “This is a void we are working to find the answer to.”
Norwood returns its entire infield, plus an outfielder and starting catcher.
Back for the Pirates are Tim Thornton, senior, first baseman; Seth Harris, senior, second baseman; Hesston Gray, sophomore, shortstop; Seth Bradshaw, junior third baseman; Hunter Gray, junior, outfielder; and Mason Sawyers, senior, catcher.
Thornton batted .276 with 11 RBIs; Bradshaw hit .313 with 9 RBIs; Hesston Gray batted .389 with one home run and 9 RBIs, and was a first-team all-conference pick; Hunter Gray hit .353 with 5 triples, 12 RBIs and also was a first-team all-conference selection.
“They are the leaders of the team,” Miller said. “They have to bring it every day. The team is depending on them to stand out and push them to do good things.”
Miller also will be looking to his newcomers to make an immediate impact.
Newcomers include: Riley Vaughan, senior, outfielder; Josh Ogletree, junior, designated hitter; Gavin Dunn, sophomore, outfielder/pitcher; Clayton Sartor, sophomore, outfielder/pitcher; Tyler Wehrer, senior, pitcher; Owen Buttram, junior, DH/first baseman; and Ryan Cottengim, senior, pitcher.
“They are going to help the team from day one,” Miller said. “Several of them are competing for varsity playing time. This is a good situation to push each other to be the best they can be.”
Miller looks for the Summit Conference and district to be a tight race this year.
“Every team will compete every game,” Miller said. “I do not see one team running off with it this year. I see us somewhere near the middle to the top of both conference and district.”
The Class 2 District 10 tournament semifinals were dominated by the Summit Conference. Norwood defeated Fordland 5-4 before falling to Mansfield, which beat Gainesville, in the championship.
But before they get there, the Pirates will participate in a jamboree at Plato, which includes Stoutland and Willow Springs, on March 10. They open their season at home against Hurley on March 16.
“I see us having a good season,” Miller said. “We will compete in every game, and the boys are eager to get going.
“Our biggest X-factor will be our pitching and defense. We are very solid on both of those and that will take us a long way.”