Growing pains won't be an issue for the Republic Tigers when they take the field for the first time on Mar. 19 in the Lead Off Baseball Tournament.
Armed with a solid array of seniors ready to turn heads following a 14-10 season a year ago that saw an appearance in the district title game, head coach Howard Quigley's team will have a target on its back, and understandably so.
Last spring, there was a noticeable spark showing what the Tigers were capable of accomplishing, especially in the field.
“Our pitching and defense is what really carried us throughout the season,” Quigley said in reference to his 2015 squad. “We struggled at times offensively, but we were able to find ways to win games.”
Now, the pieces seem to be in place for a banner 2016.
From Republic's sizable senior class, Chandler Coates (P/CF) will be the one called upon to lead the team on the mound. A University of New Mexico commit, Coates was a unanimous 1st Team All-Conference selection in his junior year, while claiming All-District honors as well.
Coates will be joined by fellow senior 1st Team All-Conference honoree Regan Butterworth. Manning the shortstop position, Butterworth carries the hefty title of team captain this season.
Jansen McQuerter (P), Ryan Cape (2B) and Gage Morris (C) round out the senior core that will be showcased in the starting lineup for the Tigers.
Quigley will also have a couple of key juniors at his disposal, including outfielder Austin Atkins and third baseman Josh Gentry. Atkins will bat leadoff, while Gentry will look to utilize his power in the middle of the order.
And, just for a little extra insurance, Quigley sees a bevy of other players battling to nab a starting spot.
“We have lots of kids working hard in practice every day competing for playing time,” said Quigley. “If one guy is not getting the job done, we have the depth to give some other kids some opportunities.”
The Tigers will also be helped by the fact that they play five of their first seven games at home following their season-opening tourney.
Competing in the high-powered Central Ozarks Conference, they'll take any advantage they can as they eye big things in 2016.
“I think that we can compete for a conference and district championship this year,” Quigley added. “We have to stay focused in order for those things to happen, but I think that our kids understand that. Hopefully, we can put it all together and have a successful postseason run.”