By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Coach Drew Miller’s Norwood Pirates will be young, but he is using their age for motivational purposes.
“Our team is being motivated by our age. We are not getting the respect we feel we deserve because of how young we are,” Miller said. “We are looking for some young players to step up in a big way.”
Norwood finished 11-12 a year ago and anticipates 14 players on this year’s roster. It’ll be an interesting pursuit considering the team lost four players to graduation.
Look for the lineup to feature freshman Garrett Davault at shortstop, followed by sophomore catcher Zack Black, senior infielder Seth Bradshaw, freshman outfielder Jacob Sinning, sophomore third baseman Josh Bradshaw, junior outfielder Gavin Dunn, senior first baseman Owen Buttram, sophomore second baseman Jalen Drake and junior outfielders Clayton Sartor and Jacob Holloway.
Bradshaw batted .225 with a .321 on-base percentage and a .267 slugging percentage last year, when he also drove in 12 runs and had three doubles.
“Seth has started at third base all three years I have been here. He is the most sure-handed infielder we have,” Miller said. “He has worked hard on his game, and it shows. He will also be a big stick in the middle of our lineup. He has worked hard on his swing, so we expect big things from him the season.”
Dunn also could be a key.
“Gavin has stepped up and took over a big role for us in the outfield. He works daily on his feet getting faster and making better routes,” Miller said. “He will big for us with his bat, too. He works hard on a fundamental swing and things are looking up for him.”
Buttram batted .200 with a .277 on-base percentage, a .245 slugging percentage and drove in six runs, with three doubles.
“Owen has really made first base his home. He started half the year last year and earned the spot this year,” Miller said. “His range is getting better and he has really soft hands around the bag. We will also need him to be a big hitter in our lineup this year. He works consistently on his swing and we are looking for good results this spring.”
Meanwhile, Josh Bradshaw returns after batting .207 with a .328 on-base percentage and a .207 slugging percentage, with four RBI.
Davault, Black, Sinning and Holloway are all newcomers along with Jalen Dranke, Clayton Sartor, Brandt Livingston, Brayden Wehrer, Chris Edwards and Dylan Calhoun.
“Our infield should be very solid,” Miller said. “We have a solid mix of young and old on the infield. We have some very sure handed players in big positions.”
On the mound, Norwood will turn mostly to Seth Bradshaw and Dunn. Bradshaw was 3-1 with a 2.70 earned run average last season, striking out 47 batters in 36 1/3 innings. Dunn struck out 12 in 16 1/3 innings.
“(Bradshaw) will help up big-time on the mound. He is my veteran on the bump this year,” Miller said. “He has worked very hard on controlling the off-speed so this year should be good. (Dunn) has a good fastball and good offspeed. I’m looking for good things this year.”
Newcomers are seniors Brandt Livingston and Mason Page, and freshmen Bayden Wehrer, Chris Edwards and Dylan Calhoun.
This is Year 3 for Miller, who was a three-year letterman and three-year all-conference and all-district at Neosho High School before starting three seasons at Southwest Baptist University.
“Our conference is going to be tough. We have three teams that I see competing hard for that top spot this year. And our districts will look a lot of our conference,” Miller said. “Our team wants to go all the way but their success will be determined by how hard they work for it. We will have to work hard every day to get better.”