By Brock Sisney (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Pierce City Eagles find themselves in a completely different position entering the 2020 season than they were in before last season.
Pierce City returns all nine starters from last season’s 11-13 team, which only returned one starter from an 18-5 team in 2018. The Eagles’ losing season last year marked the first one since 2011.
The nine returning starters are senior shortstop and pitcher Aaron Garner, senior slugging first baseman and pitcher Wyatt Perry, senior outfielders Seth Fisher and Aiden Kleinman, senior pitcher and shortstop Gabe George, junior second baseman and pitcher Zach Argyris, junior infielder and outfielder Kyler Fenske, sophomore catcher and pitcher Noah Crews and sophomore outfielder and pitcher Garrett Jesperson.
Additionally, sophomore second baseman Levi Cooper returns with varsity experience.
“Last year’s team was very young and inexperienced with only one starter returning,” Pierce City head coach B.J. Curry said. “It was exciting to see guys step up and do some positive things as the year went on. We managed to finish third in our conference and lost in the district semifinals to Purdy (a 24-win team). Overall, we knew it was going to be a developmental year for our program and I was happy with how our kids came out and competed.”
In his junior season, Garner put together a campaign that earned him all-Southwest Conference first team honors. He batted .521 with 38 total hits, 11 doubles, 19 RBI and a sensational 48 stolen bases (Garner averaged two steals per game). Garner will be a four-year starter.
“Aaron’s intangibles and baseball IQ are extremely high,” Curry said. “He will lead. Aaron has started every game of his high school career for us. Defensively, he is one of the best shortstops in the area. He had a great year at the plate and set the table for us as our leadoff man. He also set the Class 2 single-season record for stolen bases with 48. Aaron also stepped up and really helped us on the mound last year as well.”
Perry’s big bat produced a .432 average with 35 hits, 13 doubles, three home runs, 34 RBI and nine stolen bases. Fenske, Fisher and George each drove in at least 10 runs with Fenske at 14 RBI, Fisher 11 and George 10.
On the mound, George led the way with five victories and he posted a 3.37 ERA. Garner led the Eagles with a 2.52 ERA and he endured some tough luck to finish 2-4 on the season.
Curry said that Cooper, sophomore third baseman and pitcher Mason Lowe, senior outfielder Colton O’Hara, junior second baseman Kyle Renkoski and freshman third baseman and pitcher Clayton Raley all have a chance at cracking the varsity lineup.
“Our goal is to get one percent better every day and to be a dangerous team to play against in May,” Curry said. “Our strength this year will be our depth and character. The key to a successful season will be whether or not each individual gives their best effort.”
There’s also the success experienced by Pierce City’s football and boys basketball programs, as several baseball athletes play all three sports.
Pierce City finished 11-1 in football and O’Hara and Perry both earned all-state honors for their outstanding play on the gridiron.
Pierce City boys basketball won 20 games in the regular season.
The Eagles open their 2020 baseball season March 20 on the road against the Conway Bears.