By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
To say that the New Covenant Academy Warriors have talent to replace this spring would be putting it lightly. Five of the seven seniors that graduated last May are playing college sports. Three are playing college baseball.
“These seven seniors led the Warriors to a second-place finish in the state in 2016 and a quarterfinal berth in 2018,” recalled sixth year coach John Hartley, who has gone 93-34 at New Covenant. “They won the Mark Twain Conference in three of their four years and will be missed.”
Last year, the Warriors posted a 19-5 record and went 3-0 in the Mark Twain Conference. Their season ended in the district semifinals with a 1-0 loss in nine innings to state-ranked Strafford.
Seniors Ryan Carmack, Ryan Rodgers, Max Breite, Timmy Smith, Cam Altena, Harrison Hatcher, and Tedd Fraser have all graduated. Rodgers, a First-Team All-State, All-Conference, and All-District pick, is now playing at Southwest Baptist, as is Carmack, who was named Honorable Mention All-State, First-Team All-Conference, and First-Team All-District last year. Rodgers posted a .420 batting average last spring with seven doubles, three triples, two home runs, and 21 RBIs. Carmack went 5-1 on the mound with a 0.71 ERA and batted .351 with four doubles, three triples, and two home runs, 17 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Breite garnered First-Team All-Conference and All-District selections last year and is now playing collegiately at Drury. Breite posted a 3-1 pitching record with one save and a 1.00 ERA. Offensively, he batted .407 with 10 doubles and 20 RBIs.
Of the team’s 19 wins last season, 14 were won with Carmack, Fraser, or Breite on the mound.
With such talent gone, the Warriors will turn to three returning starters and nine total returning lettermen to lead the charge.
Drury commit and senior Graham Breite takes over as the No. 1 starter for New Covenant and will also bat in the middle-of-the-order. Last year, he went 3-1 with a 2.07 ERA and batted .411 with three triples, two doubles, and 19 RBIs.
Junior Nathan Good will inherit No. 2 starting duties and will play infield when he’s not pitching. Good is returning from an injury.
Offensively, junior Nate Butler is back after blasting 10 doubles and batting .379 with 18 RBIs last spring.
“Nate is a power left-handed bat that will be counted on to be a run producer,” Hartley said.
Several part-time players from last year will move into full-time roles this season. These players include seniors William Pankiewicz and Hunter Phipps, junior Simeon Martin, and sophomores Josiah Jones, Lane Tyson, and Barrett Palen.
The Warriors did receive a pair of transfers that should contribute this spring. Junior Dillon Dougherty has moved in from Spokane and will play catcher. Sophomore Zack Muniz transferred from St. Louis and will help as a pitcher and infielder.
“We’ve got new players in new positions,” Hartley said. “We will be a Mark Twain Conference contender this year, building with our roster to be ready to make a district run in May.”