By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Chad Foster returns for his fourth season as the head baseball coach for the Weaubleau Tigers. Expectations are high this upcoming season because they have many experienced, returning players. The program has came a long way in the last five years with last year’s team finished 16-11 overall and 2nd in the conference at 6-1 behind eventual Final Four team and Class 1 State Ranked No. 1, Walnut Grove. The Tigers only lost two players to graduation, Tate Dennis and Hayden Flagg.
Dennis was a great leader for the Tigers and was co-captain. He had the second-best ERA (2.36), most strikeouts (45), most wins (7), best WHIP (1.04), and was tied for most homeruns (2). When he wasn’t toeing the rubber he was playing the middle infield. Tate earned PCL Conference first-team honors. His leadership will be greatly missed.
Flagg rejoined the baseball team last year after taking the previous year off. He led the team in batting average (.397). When he wasn’t pitching he played first base and some outfield. His fielding percentage was an outstanding .944. Flagg earned All-District first-team honors. The Tigers will miss his bat in the lineup, along with his defensive abilities.
Weaubleau returns six starters to the lineup this year so they will all be seasoned veterans after last year’s success. Senior Cameron Ott is one of only two seniors on the roster. Ott is a versatile player and plays multiple positions, including pitcher. As a pitcher, Ott went 3-0 with an ERA of 4.50 but it was at the plate where Ott really stood out. He batted .356 with 7 doubles and 2 home runs. He also drove in two runs and stole 19 bases. When he played catcher he threw out base runners at a 33% clip. He was selected as first-team all-conference and first-team all-district and was voted as team MVP.
“He will play a pivotal role again as a team leader and passing on that leadership to his younger teammates,” said Coach Foster.
Cadan Kauffmann, Tate Burkhart, Briar Tucker and Tucker Hilliard are four juniors returning for the Tigers this year. Kauffmann, who was named to the second-team all-conference, is a well-rounded player and will be asked to provide additional leadership this year. Last year he led the team in ERA and was second in most other pitching categories.
Burkhart earned second-team all-district with his .364 batting average, 28 hits and 17 stolen bases. This season the team will look for him to be a factor on the mound while continuing his offensive prowess.
Tucker was named second-team all-conference. The starting center fielder is one of the top centerfielders in the PCL and earned the team’s Golden Glove Award.
Hilliard is a very versatile player, as he split time between the outfield and catching. This year he will be asked to pitch, as well. When he was at the catcher spot he threw out 22% of base runners. Hilliard was second in batting average and OPS and had one of the top fielding percentages. He was voted Most Improved by the team. Hilliard was also named to the first-team all-district and honorable mention all-state as an outfielder.
Treyton Foster is back as the only sophomore that received varsity time last year. “As a freshman, we asked a great deal out of Treyton from the start of the year,” said Coach Foster “and he contributed immediately on the mound, with the bat, and defensively, playing a very good 3rd base.” He led the team in saves. Look for Treyton Foster to produce even more on the mound and in the batter’s box this year.
New faces on the varsity this season are senior Freddie Wieder and sophomore Creek Tucker. Wieder is a transfer student who hit .415 and was 1-2 on the mound with his former school. Tucker, with his hard work ethic, could vie for some varsity playing time this year.
The rest of the roster is all freshmen. They are: Ethan Foster, Gage Culbertson, Chandler Welch, Brandon Packham, Hunter Vasquez, and Caleb Singleton.
Weaubleau’s main goal this season is to work hard, stay positive, and get better not only individually, but as a team on a daily basis. They also have their eye on winning the conference and the district.
“Additionally, we were proud as a team we qualified for Academic All-State with the 4th best GPA at 3.27 out of the top 10 selected in Class 1,” said Coach Foster. “We would once again like this distinctive honor.”
“We played a more difficult schedule than the previous years and had several close losses to bigger schools,” said Foster. “In the end I feel it made us a sounder team, as we finished the regular season ranked seventh in the state in Class 1.”
The district last year had three other state ranked teams in it, Walnut Grove, Halfway and Lakeland, making it one of the toughest districts in the state.
“In the first round of districts, we beat Dadeville 14-0,” said Foster. “In the second round of districts, we played Walnut Grove to a 3-3 tie in the 6th inning but a late run by them ended our season by a score of 13-3.”
With several varsity players returning this year and several athletic freshmen joining the team, expectations are high, to say the least.
To prepare his team for the post season, Coach Foster said “we have scheduled several tough, non-conference teams and expect it to be one of the most difficult schedules we’ve played. I expect our players to work hard, be accountable, and play unselfish as a team. The PCL Conference will once again be tough but I expect us to compete for the conference title.”