By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In his first year at Central, Jerrod White is looking to establish a competitive culture within the baseball program.
“We’ve had a full fall and winter of strength and conditioning,” White said. “Our group has worked with the football team and coaches Sean Nevills and Manny Marshall since August in the weight room. We are building a positive team culture and seeing significant gains in strength and athleticism.”
White, who played collegiately at the University of Arkansas, Missouri State University, and Bellvue University, comes to Central with a strong baseball background.
He began coaching in 2009 as an assistant at Coffeyville Community College. He worked under Springfield baseball legend Dick Birmingham at a youth baseball academy as a coach and instructor for teams from 10U to 18U. In 2012, he and his brother Jeff, established White Brothers Baseball, a youth baseball academy with teams from 7-18U. He spend the 2013 season as an assistant at Glendale and served as head coach of the Ozark Generals from 2013-2015 – a college summer team that competes in the MINK League.
“In my first year at Central, I am learning something new every day,” White said. “I continuously try to promote a love for the game of baseball to our young team. We will look to play fundamentally sound baseball and have a lot of fun along the way. Our team has put in the time and effort to make 2018 a great season. In 2019, we will transition to an Ozarks Conference schedule and are doing all we can to prepare for the challenges ahead.”
After finishing 4-15 last year, including a first round exit in the district tournament, the Bulldogs return 12 key pieces and a few newcomers and hope to make a more competitive run this season.
Sophomore Hunter Harrel headlines the returners, a right-handed pitcher that features a low-80s fastball and nice overhand curve. “He’s a hard-worker and will see time at the corner infield when he’s not on the mound,” White said. “We look for big things out of Hunter over the next three seasons.”
Also returning are seniors Danny Adams, Jake Keyston, and James Hosmer. Adams was the starting quarterback on the football team and is a starter on the basketball team, too. “He should have a lasting impact on a team full of young talent,” White said.
Keyston, a left-handed pitcher and outfielder, comes to Central as a transfer student. Hosmer, the team’s starting shortstop, is also back for his final year.
Juniors Robert Blakey, Andrew Gibson, and Bryce Marion also return for the Bulldogs.
“Robert’s an athlete that will compete for a starting outfield position,” White said. “Andrew is athletic and strong, and we are leaning on him for leadership and confidence. This could be a breakout season for him. Bryce is an explosive hitter and our third baseman, but we may need him to eat some innings on the mound. He will hit in the middle of the lineup and will be counted on to drive in runs.”
Other key returners include a group of sophomores in utility man Jared Allen, catcher/pitcher Elijah Ponder, outfielder Jerry Gaylor, infielder Lance Yens, and pitcher/outfielder Will Manning.
Newcomers include senior pitcher/outfielder Jake Keyston, and freshmen Caleb Davis, Andrew Murry, and Theo Hosmer.
“Jake is a transfer student and a confident kid who can give us an edge,” White said. “I’m excited to watch him compete. Caleb, a right-handed pitcher that uses a low ¾ arm-slot and is developing a slider, We hope he gives us four good years on the mound. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Andrew is a big freshman and he will get some varsity time this year. Theo is a multi-sport athlete and will see innings as a utility defender. James Hosmer is his older brother.”
Even though the recent history of Central baseball has been bleak, White sees reason for optimism.
“Our players have a willingness to work and an eagerness to learn and improve,” he said. “Our offseason has been promising. We’ve got a lot of young talent and look to gain valuable experience this season.”