By Chris Parker
Pleasant Hope baseball is a program on the rise. Four years ago, the Pirates finished with just one win. That was followed by seasons of two and seven wins. Last year, the Pirates vaulted to a 14-10 record and finished above .500 for the first time since 2013.
“We worked at it,” Pleasant Hope head coach Page Jones said. “Our boys bought into wanting to accomplish district and conference championships and beyond. They were willing to put the time into grinding at it.”
The Pirates lean on a trio of juniors that all earned all-conference honors last season. The group includes Grant Dohle, Brendle McDaniel and Colton Highfill.
“A lot of schools utilize multiple sport athletes like us, but coming into high school these guys really love the game and want success,” Jones said. “So having kids that enjoy the game makes a big difference on development.”
Dohle earned first-team all-conference honors at catcher for a second time in as many years last season.
“Grant is one of the top catchers in southwest Missouri,” Jones said. “We have to be good in the middle of the field and Grant is the one it all starts with; he gives our pitchers confidence in not worrying about bouncing a breaking ball and he controls opponents run game.”
Dohle hit .476 with six doubles, 19 RBI and 18 steals last season.
Highfill earned all-conference honors as both an infielder and pitcher last season. He hit .468 with nine doubles 27 RBI and 21 steals. On the mound, Highfill was 6-3 with two saves and a 3.99 ERA.
“He’s our guy when the big games are played,” Jones said. “He has thrown those games since he was a freshman, He is prepared and wants the ball.”
McDaniel was first-team all-conference in the outfield. As a sophomore, McDaniel hit .459 with 24 RBI and 32 total hits. He will man centerfield and see time on the mound.
“(His) work ethic is phenomenal,” Jones said. “He was our team MVP last year. His development from his freshman to sophomore years was amazing. He sets a great example to our underclassman every day what hard work does.”
Senior Jeff Tanner returns after missing much of his junior year due to a torn ACL. He was an all-conference and all-district selection his sophomore year. Tanner will see time all over the field. Juniors Wyatt Lynn (outfield) and Colton Coffey (infield/pitcher) will also be counted of for production this year.
Freshmen lefty twins Cole and Landon Davis have the potential to immediately contribute on the mound. Junior Clinton Spracklen is back after seeing a lot of time in the outfield last season. Hunter Balldwin hasn’t played in a few years, but has shown promise.
Pleasant Hope opens the season Mar. 20-27 at its home tournament.