By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After a 9-15 campaign, Camdenton is still searching for its first winning baseball season since 2012.
That goal breeds an entirely new challenge this spring as over a dozen seniors left the program after last year, meaning the Lakers must replace every player in their lineup.
“We had some good pieces to make a stronger surge than we did but continued to struggle offensively,” said third-year head coach Bryce Durnin. “We hit .217 as a team which is really hard to match from a pitching and defensive standpoint. We struck out way too much and continued to struggle to put runs on the board.”
The departed talent includes All-Ozark Conference pitcher Parker Stidham, who provided just shy of 50 innings of work and nearly delivered wins against Jefferson City and Columbia Rockbridge.
All-OC honorable mention Austin Stamper is also gone, as is catcher Dylan McGuire, now playing at Park University.
Sophomore Brandon Pasley (SS) is the lone returning varsity player. He earned his playing time primarily thanks to his defense last spring while also serving as designated hitter.
Seniors Austin Carter and Nolan Moreiarity, both outfielders, will step into starting roles after spending the majority of 2017 on junior varsity. Durnin said their commitment will be huge for this young squad.
Sophomore Andrew Dibello will fill out the outfield and be expected to produce in the middle of the order, as will new junior catcher Dylan Thompson.
“Like Dylan , Andrew has put a ton of time and effort into his baseball craft,” said Durnin. “Defensively, Andrew can just flat out go get the baseball and he continues to work on his swing on a daily basis.”
The names Stidham and Stamper will still populate the Camdenton roster despite graduation. Younger brothers Riley Stidham and Garrett Stamper will get their shots at toeing the rubber in 2018.
“They are the younger brothers of two pitching workhorses will be expected to pick up where their brothers left off. Both players have great stuff can can give us a chance to win.”
The Laker offense did prove to be streaky last spring. Camdenton was shut out seven times but managed to put up six runs or more in six matchups. Durnin believes building consistency will be key to a better finish.
“We have athletic kids but we are just not making good enough contact to compete consistently in the top half of the Ozark Conference. I would like to see our ability to hit deep in the count, especially with two strikes, improve. We need to do a better job of putting the ball in play.”
With so many players getting their first whiff of varsity baseball, it is tough to provide too many answers as to what the 2018 Camdenton season will bring. A seven-game losing skid put them in a deep hole last year and Durnin wants his players to embrace a short learning curve and a hotter start in order to avoid that.
“The Lakers continue to work to flip our record from last season around. Achieving that will involve getting off to a better start and competing better in the Ozark Conference. The key to success is a shared commitment to prepare ourselves at a high level every day. We can control that and that’s all we need to focus on.”