By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
For some teams, looking back at last year is not welcome at all.
However, that may not necessarily be a bad thing for the Lamar High School baseball team. The Tigers finished 8-11, but learned a lot of lessons in close losses.
In fact, the team returns eight lettermen, including seven starters. Which is why coach Thad Lundine is optimistic as the curtain rises on the 2022 season.
“We return a lot of upperclassmen to this year’s team,” Lundine said. “They have worked hard to improve physically and athletically. Our key will be to improve our pitching, be defensively sound and get just a few more timely hits a week.”
Look for seniors Mason Gastel and Stetson Wiss to lead the way on the mound. They were a combined 5-2 last season, and Wiss finished with a 2.97 earned run average.
Gatsel is a 6-foot-4, 190-pounder.
“Mason is a hard-working kid who has made great strides the last three years in leadership and ability,” Lundine said. “His abilities in the field, on the mound and in the batter’s box will take us a long way this year.”
Wiss could be a difference-maker again. He is a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder. He was a second team All-District and All-Big 8 Conference as an outfielder.
“Stetson had a great year last year and provided us with great pitching, hitting and fielding,” Lundine said. “If he can take steps forward this year, I see him and this team having a great season.”
The rest of the projected roster includes seniors in third baseman/pitcher Robert Lawrence and first baseman/catcher Tucker Torbeck, and juniors Tyler Ansley (outfield), Tate Ansley (catcher/right field), Ryan Davis (catcher/third, pitcher) and Ty Willhite (shortstop/pitcher).
Lawrence had 10 hits last year, four RBI and six stolen bases.
“Robert has started since his freshman year and has provided us with a lot of defensive plays,” Lundine said. “He will have a bigger year this year in the batter’s box and assume more of a pitching role.”
Torbeck is interesting, given his health.
“Tucker was a starting catcher but, because of a wrist injury, he was unable to hit much,” Lundine said. “His wrist healed, and we expect him to have a bigger role at the plate this year.”
Tyler Ansley batted .360 last year with 18 hits and eight RBI. He was a second team all-district and all-conference utilityman last year.
“Tyler was a welcome surprise last year and took over the leadoff spot and provided us some great fielding in the outfield,” Lundine said. “He will have to take on a bigger role this year, and we know he is up to the task.”
Tate Ansley batted .462 with 10 hits.
“Tate took over the DH role halfway through the year and provided us with some big hits,” Lundine said. “He will take on more of a defensive role and handle some duties on the mound.”
Davis will contend for a role at catcher and pitcher. Because he is a contact hitter with good power, he can find himself in the middle of Lamar’s batting order.
Willhite’s middle infield defense could be a key, too. He took over there in the middle of last season.
Other notable roster members are senior middle infielder Jimmy Hearod, juniors Jaxon Hearod (middle infield) and Hunter Lundine (second base), and sophomores Chase Querry and Logan Kish.
Jaxon Hearod had 10 hits and seven RBI last season along with six stolen bases. Jimmy Hearod couldn’t play most of last year because of an injury.
Lundine and the Tigers could use last year’s learning experiences to their advantage. They know consistency has to become key.
“The great thing was that, after each setback, the guys would come back to work and give everything they could to right the wrongs,” Lundine said. “I was very proud of their diligence.”