By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Talk about being right on the cusp of taking that next step and making history.
That’s how far the Seymour High School baseball team has climbed in recent years, and coach Jason Duey hopes his Tigers can finish the job.
“Our program is moving in the right direction, but we still have not accomplished our goal of winning a district championship,” said Duey, whose team won the Summit Conference but lost in the district title game, 6-4, to tradition-rich and conference rival Mansfield. “Most of these seniors have been playing varsity since their freshman year, so the varsity experience is there. Hopefully being in the district championship last year will help us be a little more prepared for big games this spring.”
Seymour is expected to have 12 players on the varsity roster a year after finishing 21-6, and its strength is the pitching staff.
Senior right-hander Brady Brooke was 4-2 with a 1.66 earned run average last year, when now-junior starter Carson Sturdefant finished 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA. Seniors Eric Helms and Truman Hosiner along with sophomore Brock Pearce also should see time on the mound.
“Brady and Carson have established themselves as two of the best in the conference,” Duey said. “Brock has some of the best physical tools that I have seen in a sophomore. He is still learning how to pitch, so he could be pretty good when that part of his game fully develops. Eric and Truman will provide us with some innings late in ballgames.”
The projected lineup features Hosiner in center field, Helms at catcher, Sturdefant at shortstop, Pearce at third base, Brooke on the mound or at shortstop, Hosiner at second base, junior Nathan Baker in left field, senior Keaton Owens at first base and senior Justin Herion in right field.
“We have to do a better job of cashing in on scoring opportunities than what we did this fall,” Duey said. “We left a ton of men on base this fall.”
Helms batted .429 with 36 hits, 32 RBI and 14 stolen bases last season, when he also earned first team all-conference and all-district honors.
“Eric has the ability to play anywhere on the field but has been our catcher since his freshman year,” Duey said. “He has established himself as one of the best players in the conference. He put up all-state caliber numbers last year but did not get that recognition. He does a nice job of working with our pitchers.”
Helms could bat No. 2 in the order behind Hosiner, who batted .299 with 23 hits, 22 RBI and 13 steals last season.
Sturdefant hit .429 with 36 hits, 26 RBI and 12 steals to earn first team all-conference and all-district honors. He has been a varsity starter the past two seasons.
“Carson is super competitive and passionate about the game, but I love his demeanor on the mound because you can never tell if it is a big game or not,” Duey said. “He put up some really good offensive numbers last spring.”
The lineup could really rev up from the start with Hosiner’s experience and leadership.
“Truman has mainly played on the infield for us but this year we have asked him to take over in centerfield,” Duey said. “Truman is one of the most intelligent baseball players I have ever coached. We will need him to be the leader in the outfield as we are replacing all three outfielders from last year’s team.”
Pearce and Brooke combined for 40 hits and 39 RBI, and Brooke added 13 steals to earn second team all-conference.
Nathaniel Hosiner hit .269 in the fall, while Baker last year had 14 hits and five steals, and Owens and Herion combined last fall for 15 hits, nine RBI and four steals.
Junior Larry Benson and Brandon Young also could be key contributors.
Duey, a Mountain Grove High School graduate, is in his 12th year as a head coach. In nine seasons at Norwood, two teams reached the Final Four.
In 11 prior years, the district which his teams have been assigned to saw success, with seven teams reaching the Final Four.
“We are unified in our one goal of winning a district title,” Duey said. “We know that doing this will be very difficult. There are a lot of hurdles that we must get over in order to even play for a district championship. My players want to be the first to bring home a district championship to Seymour.”