By Denise Tucker/For OzarksSportsZone.com
The 2016 season was a hot-and-cold one for the Halfway Cardinals.
The Cardinals finished 10-12 overall and 3-4 in the Polk County League last season, which ended with an 11-1 loss to Walnut Grove in the Class 1 District 7 semifinals.
“Last season was up and down,” third-year Halfway coach Chip Weeg said. “One part, we went 6-7 and another 0-5. We had too many little mistakes and too many mental breakdowns, and leaned on a number of freshmen and sophomores. But, I was proud of how the team responded most of the time.
“It’s always exciting to see what players are ready to step up to the varsity level.”
The Cardinals return eight starters and 12 lettermen.
*Kody Jenkins – sophomore – pitcher/outfielder/third baseman – led the team with a .386 batting average, and had 17 hits, 7 runs batted in and 3 stolen bases.
*Hayden McCarthy – sophomore – pitcher/shortstop – led the team with 25 hits, and had a .368 average, 8 RBIs and 10 SB.
*Cody Westfall – senior – catcher/designated hitter – had a .351 batting average, 20 hits and 11 RBIs.
*Caleb Gallivan – junior – pitcher/catcher/shortstop – had a .292 average, 14 hits, 9 RBIs and 5 SB.
*Kody Agee – junior – third baseman/DH – had a .310 average, 13 hits and 6 RBIs.
*Justin Rovenstine – senior – first baseman – had a .296 average, 16 hits and 6 RBIs.
*Carl Ackels – senior – second baseman/pitcher – had a .263 average, 6 RBIs and 10 hits.
Other key returnees include: Dallas Dodd (junior, P/OF), Ben Barharm (junior, OF), Ryan Gallivan (sophomore, P/OF), Jarrett Rovenstine (sophomore, OF), Triston Bendotti (junior, OF), and Zane Tindle (sophomore, OF).
“There will be some new faces in the starting lineup, but there is also a solid core of players who return and will offer the stability that comes with familiarity,” Weeg said. “We only have three seniors and will look to our underclassmen to step up.”
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One of the new faces that Weeg will be looking to to contribute this season is Blake Phillips – freshman – pitcher/first baseman.
Pitching will be the Cardinals’ biggest strength in 2017. Halfway had a 2.95 team ERA with 168 strikeouts and 74 base on balls in 2016.
Caleb Gallivan went 3-2 with a 2.23 ERA and was an All-PCL and all-district selection in 2016. Ryan Gallivan (1-3, 3.65 ERA) and McCarthy (1-3, 4.62 ERA) were also in the rotation last season. Jenkins and Dodd should make an impact on the mound in 2017.
“Hopefully, we can lean on our defense and pitching early on as we attempt to establish an offensive identity,” Weeg said. “Depth is the one thing we may have a lot of this season as we will use four right-handers (Dodd, Jenkins, Ackels, R. Gallivan) and two lefties (C. Gallivan and McCarthy).”
The Cardinals will participate in the jamboree at New Covenant on March 16, which also includes Fair Play and Fordland, before opening the season March 18 at Skyline.
“We have a lot of talent on this team,” Weeg said. “I believe we will be much more competitive than last season. I know all too well that what looks good on paper might never translate on the baseball field, but we’re determined to make it so, especially after a disappointing season in 2016.
“The season will bring new challenges, and expectations go up this year. We showed signs of improvement and I feel we are on the right track to build on that success.”