By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
With one more year of experience under its belt, the Mount Vernon Mountaineers baseball team should see a strong improvement this spring.
Last year, the team finished 11-12, but posted a 6-1 mark in the Big 8 Conference. A district loss in the opening round to Springfield Catholic ended the team’s season.
“Last year’s team competed hard but was young,” noted coach Nick Swillum, now in his 24th year leading the program. “We were playing seven sophomores pretty consistently. We did well in the Big 8 Conference … placing second to eventual state champion, Aurora.”
Four key players have graduated from last year in Chance Fenton, Ty Boswell, Jayden Buttram, and Ethan Johnston. Fenton was named First-Team All-Conference and All-District after hitting .443 with three homers and 14 RBIs. He’s now playing collegiately at State Fair Community College. Boswell was picked Second-Team All-Conference and Second-Team All-District while Buttram was named Honorable Mention All-Conference.
“Chance had a great season as our starting shortstop and a relief pitcher,” Swillum said. “His quickness and energy will be missed. At the plate he was a dangerous leadoff hitter with power. Ty had a great year patrolling centerfield. He did a great job for us on the mound mostly in relief. At the plate, he provided power from the 4-hole. Jayden was a hard-working and tough defensive catcher with some pop in his bat. Ethan was a positive, hard-working outfielder who got the job done.”
The Mountaineers return six starters and 10 total lettermen, led by the senior trio of Will Boswell, Patrick Lester, and Arthur Henry.
Boswell was named honorable mention all-conference as a pitcher, second-team all-conference as an infielder, and second-team all-district after batting .391 with 20 RBIs and going 4-4 on the mound with a 2.75 ERA. Lester hit .250 last year, and Henry batted .200.
“Will is a strong player who provides power and average at the plate,” Swillum said. “He has a good glove and a strong arm at third base. He will be one of our top pitchers, combining velocity and control. Patrick is an excellent defensive outfielder who gives 100 percent all the time. Arthur is a very good player for us that will fill in at third base and first base and see time as a relief pitcher. He has the potential to be a good stick in the bottom-half of the order.”
The Mountaineers also return juniors Colby Johnston, Cale Miller, Zach Jones, Quinn Price, Tresten Shipman, Malachi Hale, and Toby Huver. Johnston and Price were both named Honorable Mention All-Conference last season.
Johnston batted .338 with 23 total hits. Miller hit .254 with 10 RBIs and 12 stolen bases, and Price went 3-1 on the mound with a 3.29 ERA and batted .267 with 13 RBIs and 16 total hits.
“Colby is a very good defensive shortstop with range,” Swillum said. “At the plate, he is a tough out who provides a high batting average. He will be a starter on the mound and has great command. Cale is an excellent left-handed first baseman with range and speed. He should provide power in the middle of the order and will see time on the mound, most likely in relief. Zach is an excellent athlete who will find time in the outfield and should provide power near the middle of the lineup. Quinn is a power-hitting and power-pitching player that will hit in the middle of the order and see time on the mound and behind the plate. Tresten has a lot of athletic potential and should be a versatile player on the infield. Malachi has very good speed and will compete for time in the middle infield while also pitching in relief. Toby is recovering from a knee injury sustained during football season. If he is able to return, he will help us in the outfield. He has a strong arm and a lot of potential at the plate.”
Newcomers to the team include junior Carson Bowman and sophomores Rafe Darter, Lane Pendleton, and Stetson Moulds.
“I expect us to be extremely competitive in the conference and district this season,” Swillum said. “We have a number of good, quality arms that will help us on the mound. Our pitching should be good. Defensively, we will be as good or better than we ever have been, and offensively, we have power potential and speed. It should be an interesting season.”