By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The bar is set high for the New Covenant Warriors this season, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
After posting a 23-6 mark last year, including a 4-0 record in the Mark Twain Conference and a Class 2 quarterfinal game appearance, the squad returns nine starters and 16 total lettermen. Clearly, expectations have been raised.
“The Warriors will be very competitive in southwest Missouri baseball this spring,” coach John Harley said, now in his 40th year of coaching with over 1,000 career wins.
Two key players have graduated in Alan Ramsey and Landon Bilyeu. Ramsey was a 1st Team All-Conference pick last year and a four-year starter in centerfield. He went 2-1 on the mound with a 1.11 ERA and batted .412 with a home run and 23 RBIs. Bilyeu played second base and was named 1st Team All-Conference and 1st Team All-District. He was a .397 hitter with a homer and 25 RBIs.
Along with production on the field, both players demonstrated leadership throughout the year, helping the Warriors spend the entire year in the state rankings on the way to a banner year.
Replacing Ramsey and Bilyeu won’t be easy, but New Covenant can lean on the play of its returners, headlined by seven seniors: Ryan Rodgers, Ryan Carmack, Max Breite, Tedd Fraser, Harrison Hatcher, Timmy Smith, and Cam Altena.
Rodgers, Carmack, and Breite all received accolades last year and have committed to continue their baseball careers at the college level.
Rodgers was 1st Team All-State, 1st Team All-Conference, and 1st Team All-District last year after batting a team-best .594 with 40 RBIs. The outfielder led the team with 45 hits, including 20 for extra-bases and has signed to play at Southern Nazarene in Bethany, Okla. next season. Carmack went 8-1 on the mound with a 1.41 ERA while batting .357 with 12 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases. Breite went 5-0 on the bump with a 1.21 ERA. At the plate, he hit .500 with 10 doubles, 41 total hits, and 23 RBIs.
Carmack was picked Honorable Mention All-State, 1st Team All-Conference, and 1st Team All-District. He’ll play next year at Southwest Baptist. Breite was named 1st Team All-Conference and 1st Team All-District. He’ll play at Drury University next season.
“Ryan (Rodgers) is a solid leadoff man for us that sets the tone for our lineup in addition to his quality outfield play,” Harley said. “Ryan (Carmack) is a mid-80s arm that leads our rotation and hits the middle of our lineup. Max is a low-80s left-handed arm that also provides solid play at first base and a lefty bat in the middle of the order.”
Fraser, Hatcher, Smith, and Altena also are looking for solid years for the Warriors this spring. Fraser posted a 3-1 record with 4 saves and a 1.95 ERA last spring. Hatcher hit .333 with 24 RBIs while playing a solid outfield. Smith, a three-year starter at shortstop, batted .347 with 25 RBIs, and Altena hit .443 with 21 RBIs while catching the pitching staff.
“Tedd will be counted on this year as one of the rotation starters for us,” Hartley said. “Harrison plays a strong right field and finds a lot of ways to contribute to our lineup. Timmy is a quality athlete in our lineup, and Cam is a quality catcher and athlete who understands the game well. He finds ways to help us win.”
New Covenant also brings back junior Graham Breite and sophomores Nate Butler and Nathan Good. Breite hit .360 last spring with 18 RBIs. He’ll be counted on in the middle infield and on the mound this spring for the Warriors. Butler notched a 1.50 ERA on the mound and hit .311 at the plate, while Good posted a 5-2 record and 3.30 ERA.
The Warriors will also look for production from a group of newcomers that includes juniors Connor Dunn and Garrett Simmerman, and freshmen Barratt Palin, Lane Tyson, and Josiah Jones.