By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The 2020 Covid-19 sports cancellations weren’t pleasant or appealing to anyone; however, don’t expect Bolivar head coach Brad Roweton to dwell on the past.
Despite the loss of valuable development time, the longtime Liberator skipper has been quick to adapt and play the hand schools have been dealt this year.
“When bad things happen you pick up the pieces and move forward,” Roweton said. “There was a pretty steep learning curve at the start of the summer for the players and coaches alike. When talking to a senior, we expected them to act and play like a senior. When, in reality, we were talking to seniors that had not played a high school season since their sophomore year. The same could be said about every grade level. We had to slow down for a couple weeks and try to help everyone catch up as fast as possible.”
Six of Bolivar’s returning varsity lettermen are seniors including outfielder/pitcher Bo Banner (.292 BA), outfielder Dylan Hall, infielder/catcher/pitcher Ryan Hadank, infielder Parker Erickson, outfielder Luke Meents and infielder Heath Robertson. They will be joined by returning junior infielder/pitcher Cooper Cribs.
Erickson received all-conference and all-district honors in 2019.
Bolivar’s varsity newcomers include junior catcher River Adams, senior infielder Jacob Anderson, junior infielder/outfielder/pitcher Kaden DeGraffenreid, junior infielder/pitcher Luke Goforth, junior infielder Justice Hinsley, junior infielder EJ Ingram, senior pitcher Isaac Jenkins, senior outfielder Landon Rauch, junior outfielder Elijah Roberts and junior infielder Deacon Sharp.
“The one stat that sticks out for us is we only return nine varsity innings pitched from the 2019 season,” Roweton said. “We have some talented young pitchers and some seniors that are ready to accept the challenge but have little varsity experience. With a year off it’s hard to determine who is a newcomer and a returner.”
Whether returner or newcomer, the Liberators must develop quickly to replace a quartet of talented graduates in Cooper Hitchcock, Zeke Partin, Cooper Bushey and Andrew Johnson.
Roweton praised his graduates for their character and demeanor during a difficult period.
“We can’t say enough about this group of boys and how bad we feel for them not getting to play their senior season,” Roweton said. “When they were faced with last year’s dilemma they handled it with dignity and class, just like successful people handle hard times in life.”
For Bolivar to be successful and challenge for a postseason run, Roweton believes his team will need to keep things on an even keel on a day-to-day basis, both on the mound and at the plate.
“We have some talented bats in the lineup but you need to be 6-9 hitters deep to be able to score runs consistently, or you need to have a lot of speed,” Roweton said. “The key to our success will be how quickly we can get depth into our lineup. I’m sure a lot of teams feel the same way missing out on last year.”
Following a March 16 jamboree at Rolla with the host school and Washington, Bolivar will open its regular season March 19 at home against Aurora.