By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
While the spring season was canceled, that didn’t keep Webb City’s baseball program from getting in some games in 2020.
The Cardinals played in eight tournaments and totaled 40 games last summer, which helped second year head coach Flave Darnell get a feel for his team.
“We feel like our summer season really answered a lot of questions maybe we were going to have going into this year,” Darnell said. “We were fortunate enough to do that.”
Darnell, who’s in his 17th year as a head coach, went 268-133 in 15 years at the helm in Carl Junction. He took a job at Webb City and spent one year as an assistant before taking over for Garry Highfill after the 2019 season.
With no season last spring, Darnell is still waiting to coach his first high school game at Webb City.
The Cardinals have been one of the strongest teams in the area for years now. They’ve posted six winning seasons in a row and won district championships in four of the last five. They went 17-12 in 2019 and lost in the sectional round.
Webb City returns three starters from that 2019 season in seniors Treghan Parker, Devrin Weathers and Cole Gayman.
Parker was a first team Central Ozark Conference infielder and also earned all-district honors. He batted .420 with four doubles, four triples and 34 total hits while driving in nine runs. He’ll likely start at shortstop this season and has already signed with Missouri Southern to continue his baseball career.
“He had an awesome sophomore season and he had a really good junior summer,” Darnell said. “He continues to get stronger and improve. We expect him to hit in the middle of our order for us. We expect big things out of him.”
Weathers has signed to play running back at Kansas State but is also a standout outfielder. He was an all-district player as a sophomore and batted .346 with 10 stolen bases. He’ll be back in center field and hit at the top of the order.
“He’s obviously committed to play football at K-State but he’s excited about this upcoming season and we’re looking forward to him having a great year,” Darnell said.
Gayman earned second team COC honors as a pitcher and was another all-district honoree. He went 7-2 with a 2.33 ERA as a sophomore. He’ll be the team’s frontline starter and should play second base when he’s not on the mound. He could also handle first base. Like Parker, he’s headed to Southern to play baseball.
“He’s coming off an injury and he looks great this offseason, looks strong,” Darnell said. “He was able to get healthy this summer and had a good year at quarterback in football. It’s good to get him back healthy and playing sports.
Webb City returns a fourth senior letterman in Shane Noel, an infielder and pitcher. He’ll play third base when he’s not pitching. He hit four doubles two years ago.
“He’s a real athletic kid, runs well and throws well,” Darnell said. “Good pop in his bat. We’re expecting good things out of him also this year.”
Noah Mitchell, Eli Goddard and Matt Woodmansee are three more seniors who had “awesome” summers and will be big contributors. Mitchell is a 6-foot-3 pitcher who played junior varsity in 2019 but has impressed Darnell so far and figures to be the team’s No. 2 starter.
“He’s a big right-handed kid, throws hard and continues to improve,” he said.
Goddard could see time at catcher or first base and surprised the coaching staff with his pitching ability in relief last summer. He’s another hard thrower with good command.
Woodmansee will play in college at Labette Community College in Parsons, Kansas. He should be Webb City’s right fielder and hit near the top of the order. He can run well and has a good arm.
There are several juniors who will be pushing for time, too. Gavin Stowell is a left-handed pitcher who looks like the team’s No. 3 starter. Cooper Crouch could earn time at first base and will pitch as a hard-throwing righty. Eric Fitch is a versatile player who could play in the outfield or infield. Aiden Brock will be the team’s designated hitter and could also catch. Jeremiah Leaming could pitch and play left field. Cade Wilson is a speedy outfielder who’s recovering from an ankle injury; he could play in left when he’s back in April.
“We’ve still got some question marks in a few areas about where people might go when certain people pitch,” Darnell said. “If certain people aren’t hitting, who’s next up; things like that. We definitely have some question marks but it’s a good solid senior class that we’re really looking forward to see start playing.”
Webb City will host a jamboree on Friday, March 12 with Carl Junction and Republic. The Cardinals open the regular season in the Lael Leadoff Classic in Branson and will play in the Springfield Red/Blue Tournament in early April. They’ll travel to St. Louis in April to play Columbia Rock Bridge and Francis Howell in a doubleheader.