By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Upperclassmen will lead the way for Fair Grove. And just like the fall and winter sports seasons, they’re hoping to continue a winning standard on the baseball diamond.
“The foundation of our team is made up of guys who are athletes and love to compete,” said Eagles coach Christian Overstreet. “They all have played a fall or winter sport and had a lot of success during those seasons.
“They are a fun group to coach and most importantly, they are a group of guys who want to be coached and improve every day.”
Overstreet expects to field a varsity roster that features six seniors, two juniors and one sophomore.
The senior class includes Rhett Hill (P/C/UT), Cayden Stacye (OF/P), Josh Thompson (OF/P), Landon Baker (IF), Austin Sisco (IF/P) and Dylan Mooneyham (UT/PR).
Hill is a two-way threat. As a pitcher, he went 6-3 with a 2.26 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. He also hit .349 with 10 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs.
Hill enters his fourth season as a varsity starter and has signed to play at College of the Ozarks. He’ll pitch, catch and can play multiple positions.
“His versatility is a great luxury to have as a coach,” Overstreet said. “Rhett has worked really hard in the weight room and has increased his bat speed and overall strength, which will help him do even more damage at the plate.”
Thompson enters his third season as the team’s starting center fielder. He hit .267 with three triples in 2018.
“Josh has tremendous range and instincts for playing the outfield,” Overstreet said. “He is a three-sport athlete who is a great competitor and has a motor that runs harder than any player I’ve had the opportunity to coach.”
Stacye emerged as a dependable pitching option last season. He’ll see increased innings in his senior season and play an outfield spot when he’s not pitching.
Sisco will also compete for a starting spot in Fair Grove’s pitching rotation, Overstreet said.
“Austin has several pitches he can throw for strikes and can throw any pitch in any situation,” Overstreet said. “Austin will also be looked at as a bat who drives in runs for us.”
Ambrose Broyles (SS) and Hale Beckley (3B) highlight the junior class. Both hit over .330 as sophomores.
Broyles, specifically, has also grown in size and strength over the past 12 months. Beckley has built a strong reputation for his work ethic.
“Ambrose has great hands and is a gap-to-gap hitter,” Overstreet said. “He has great instincts on the base paths and possesses a high baseball IQ.
“Hale is a multi-sport athlete who has emerged as one of the top leaders in our school’s athletics program. His work ethic and commitment have earned him the respect of his teammates and classmates school-wide.”
The Eagles finished 16-11 overall last season. They lost 3-1 to rival Strafford in the Class 3 District 11 tournament title game.
Fair Grove graduated three starters: Noah Argenta, Brett Tolbert and Drew Edwards.
Argenta was an ace on the mound and at the plate. As a pitcher, Argenta went 6-3 overall with 77 strikeouts and a 1.53 ERA in 50 1/3 innings. He hit .357 with 10 extra-base hits, 11 RBIs and 10 steals.
Tolbert went 4-2 overall as a pitcher and added three homers plus 17 RBIs. Edwards hit .284.
Argenta (Butler Community College), Tolbert (State Fair Community College) and Edwards (MidAmerica Nazarene) are all playing at the college level.
“Noah was a great player, but an even better young man. Noah has left our program better than when he entered it,” Overstreet said. “Brett had a lot of games where he carried us on the mound and in the middle of our lineup. His senior leadership will be something we are going to have to replace.
“Drew was a very versatile part of our program throughout his career. He played multiple positions for us over his career but settled in as our everyday first baseman his junior and senior seasons.”
An underclassman to watch is sophomore Tanner Lumley. Like a lot of Fair Grove’s players, he’s a multi-sport athlete.
“(Tanner) will take over one of the spots in our outfield and will also compete for a starting spot in our rotation or get a bulk of our relief innings,” Overstreet said. “Tanner had a great football season as a starting cornerback for our 10-2 football team. I am looking for him to carry the momentum from his football season into baseball season.”
Fair Grove begins the season March 18-23 at the Pleasant Hope Tournament. The home opener is March 26 vs. Bolivar.
“I am really excited about this year’s group,” Overstreet said. “We have a really strong group of seniors who have proved to be in control of our team based off of their attitude and work ethic displayed throughout the course of our offseason.”