By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
There will be a new face patrolling the Hollister dugout this season.
Trent Oxenreider takes over a squad that went 20-7 last season and tied for first in the now-dissolved Central Ozarks Conference Small Division.
The Tigers fell to Springfield Catholic in the district semifinal round.
For Oxenreider, the first order of business will be replacing seven starters lost to graduation.
“We have a lot of positions to fill following the graduation of seven starters,” Oxenreider said. “We graduated 87% of the innings pitched at the varsity level last spring.”
All-state selection Jenner Steele (Hutchinson Community College), all-state honorable mention Jackson Bekemeier (Hutchinson Community College), Landon Farquhar (College of the Ozarks) and Payton Weber (Columbia College) will all continue their respective baseball careers at the next level.
This season’s Hollister lineup will be anchored by a trio of seniors in infielder Logan Armitage (.286 BA, 14 RBI, 6 SB), outfielder Garrett Moody (.282 BA, 21 RBI, 7 SB) and pitcher/infielder Avery Weber (2-1, 1.95 ERA).
“Logan saw his offense improve greatly as a junior, and he’s looked at to be our leader this spring,” Oxenreider said. “Garrett showed much improvement offensively and displayed some power as a junior. Avery has been an innings-eater in the past. Look for him to be a go-to guy on the mound.”
A pair of sophomores also return to the lineup, including pitcher/infielder Layton Morgan and pitcher/outfielder Landon Richards.
With so many open spots in the roster, several newcomers will have immediate opportunities to make an impact at the varsity level, including senior outfielder Josh Willis, junior infielder/pitcher Coltin Baur, sophomore catcher/pitcher Cole Jones, sophomore outfielder/pitcher Konner Hatfield, sophomore infielder/pitcher Colby Teaster and sophomore outfielder/pitcher Rylan Newell.
For Oxenreider, the challenge to field and develop a solid lineup will be a welcome one this season.
“We will be youthful in many positions,” Oxenreider said. “I look for us to compete each day and continue to get better. Our lineup could change a lot during the season trying to find the right mix. I could see 12-15 kids getting at-bats at the varsity level this year.”
Oxenreider believes his young pitching staff could pose the biggest question mark this season for a team hoping to compete in the reformed Big 8 Conference.
“We don’t have a lot of developed depth on the mound,” Oxenreider said. “Being so young and lacking varsity experience on the mound, we will probably sit on the back end of teams in our conference and district.”
Hollister opens its season with a March 16 double-header against Parkview and Joplin.