By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The 2019 season was historic for Seymour baseball.
After capturing the program’s first-ever district championship, the Tigers advanced to the Class 2 final.
While Seymour fell to Ellington in the championship game, Tigers’ head coach Jason Duey — entering his fourth year at the helm — believes the experience will benefit the program for many years to come.
“The disappointment of losing that final game will continue to diminish but the memories of the happiness that my boys experienced and the joy that the community got from those boys will stay strong for many years,” Duey said. “Playing in those big games at the end of the season will hopefully have a positive effect on us this spring if we find ourselves in big games along the way.”
A quartet of graduated seniors depart the program, including Brady Brooke, Eric Helms, Truman Hosiner and Keaton Owens.
Brooke (.319 BA, 22 RBI, 6-2, 85 K, 1.959 ERA), Helms (.272 BA, 13 RBI, 33 R) and Hosiner (.432 BA, 19 RBI, 35 R) were all-state selections in 2019.
“Brady Brooke was our ace last year on the mound and had a great season,” Duey said. “Eric Helms caught almost every inning for us his last three years and was an offensive leader for us. Truman Hosiner put together an outstanding senior year that saw him lead us in many offensive categories.”
While replacing a trio of all-state players is no small task, Seymour still has a bevy of weapons on its roster heading into the 2020 season, including a pair of all-state selections in Carson Sturdefant (.363 BA, 26 RBI, 33 R, 7-4, 70 K, 2.347 ERA) and Nathaniel Hosiner (.318 BA, 23 RBI, 19 R, 4-0, 27 K, 1.944 ERA).
Sturdefant, a senior pitcher/catcher, will serve as the team’s ace this season.
“Carson was the emotional leader on our team last year,” Duey said. “He is a great player that plays with a ton of emotion. The key will be how he handles being the player that the other teams focus on. He will be our No. 1 on the mound, and when he is not pitching, he will be behind the plate.”
Hosiner, a junior infielder, will catch Sturdefant and also serve as the team’s No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher on the mound.
“Nathaniel moved into the starting lineup at second base last spring and had some huge hits for us in districts and in our playoff run,” Duey said. “He is a very smart player and we will need him to lead our team with those baseball instincts.”
Senior Nathan Baker (.241 BA, 8 RBI, 19 R) and junior Brock Pierce (.191 BA, 21 RBI, 15 R, 3-1, 48 K, 3.00 ERA) also return, and each could factor into Seymour’s pitching rotation this season.
“Nathan moved to the outfield as a junior and did a nice job out there for us,” Duey said. “We will need him to move back to the infield for us and throw quite a few innings for us this spring. Brock has a ton of natural power and is returning from injury. If he can get back to where he was, he will be our No. 2 and will give us a good chance to win some more ball games.”
Senior outfielder Brandon Young, junior outfielder Scott Helms and senior infielder Larry Benson round out the Tigers’ returners.
Newcomers to the Seymour lineup include sophomore infielder Payton Bryant, freshman outfielder/first baseman Matthew Benson, sophomore infielder/outfielder Bryson Benson and senior outfielder Levi Lansdown.
While Seymour will field a lineup well-stocked with talent and postseason experience, Duey stressed the importance of his team not resting on past accomplishments.
“Our biggest hurdle to start the spring will be to get over what we did last spring,” Duey said. “We have to look at the experience from our playoff run as a benefit but we can’t continue to live in the past. We need this current team to find its own identity and make its own way.”
The Tigers rotation will feature a quartet of competent arms in Sturdefant, Hosiner, Baker and Pearce.
Duey believes Pearce, who returns after fall surgery, could be a significant X-factor in the team’s rotation.
“With these four on the mound, I could see us competing in every game,” Duey said. “But you can never have enough pitching.”
For Seymour to be successful and capture another postseason opportunity, varsity newcomers and players adjusting to new roles must quickly adapt and mesh with the team concept.
“We have a lot of unanswered questions going into the spring,” Duey said. “It will be important for us to learn from both our struggles and successes. How soon or strong this team comes together will play a role in any success that we hope to have this spring.”
Seymour opens its season Friday, March 20, in the Pleasant Hope Tournament.