Pleasant Hope will lean on three returning all-conference players this season, as the Pirates look to improve upon last year’s 7-18 record.
“Last year the way our schedule played out we faced 12 state ranked team and it was a great learning experience for our young guys,” Pleasant Hope coach Page Jones said.
Senior Zach Daugherty will be a team leader after earning all-conference honors as an infielder last year. He hit .377 and was the team’s leader in RBI. He will return to the infield this year.
Sophomores Grant Dohle and Colton Highfill are the other two returning all-conference players after strong freshmen seasons. Highfill is a well-rounded player who hit .341 last year while winning two games on the mound. He will see time in the infield and as on the mound as a pitcher. Dohle was a second-team all-conference selection at catcher and will return to the position this year. Head coach Page Jones said Dohle has improved offensively.
Senior Tegan Keck did not play last year, but will be an impact player on the mound, in the outfield and at the plate. Matt McKnight rounds out the impact seniors. He will see a lot of time on the mound and is poised for a breakout season according to Jones.
Brendle McDaniel started every game as a freshman last year and will again be a key piece of the lineup in the outfield. Freshman Jacob Puryear will have an immediate impact as a pitcher and in the outfield according to Jones. Junior Wyatt Lynn will also factor into the outfield equation. Classmate Jeff Tanner is still recovering from an ACL injury, but hit .372 last season.
Jones hopes to see improvement from his team’s pitching and defense.
“We will find our offensive identity and develop it, but defense and pitching needs to be better so our defense is not on the field as long in the past,” Jones said.
Overall, fundamentals will be a focus for the Pirates.
“We have a lot of fundamental things we need to clean up, and I feel we are accomplishing those, we will be playing our best ball when Districts get here,” Jones said.
The Pirates had a strong showing in their jamboree on Mar. 11 by going 3-0 with wins over Billings (7-1), Buffalo (2-0) and Weaubleau (4-3).
Pleasant Hope opens the regular season with its home tournament Mar. 15-23.