2022 Spring Preview: Webb City Baseball

By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

The Webb City baseball team has put together seven straight winning seasons and won four district championships in that span. The Cardinals have also won 20-plus games in four of those years – including last year’s 26-6 season that ended with a 2-0 loss to Glendale in the district finals.

“We had a really good year last year,” head coach Flave Darnell said. “Our six losses were by a combined 12 runs so we played really well. Unfortunately our bats went a little quiet in that district game against Glendale and not to take anything away from their pitching and program, their coach does a great job, it was just unfortunate we didn’t get the timely hits we needed to win that game.”

Darnell, who’s entering his third year at the helm in Webb City and 18th as a head coach, is fast approaching a coaching milestone as he’s just six wins shy of 300 (294-139). But this year’s Webb City team must replace six starters lost to graduation, including a few players who are already making an impact at the collegiate level.

That list includes Treghan Parker, a utility player at Missouri Southern who’s starting as a freshman and has emerged as one of the team’s top hitters. He was the Central Ozark Conference player of the year last spring. Cole Gayman is also pitching for the Lions as a freshman, and two others – Shane Noel (Crowder College) and Matt Woodmansee (Labette Community College) also continued their careers at the next level.

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In all, Webb City’s senior class last spring combined to go 16-3 on the mound and recorded 63 extra-base hits while driving in 195 runs. Parker led the team with 56 RBI’s and seven home runs while batting .429. Gayman was 5-3 on the mound and batted .400, Noel went 5-0 with a 1.3 ERA and was a .448 hitter with six triples, and Devrin Weathers, who’s playing football at Kansas State, batted .500 with 53 hits and 38 stolen bases. All four earned All-State honors.

“We’ve got some really good players to replace, for sure,” Darnell said.

The Cardinals do return a handful of players who started last spring. Senior Aiden Brock was the team’s full-time designated hitter; he hit .270 and drove in 16 runs. Senior Brantley Carter returns at catcher. Senior Jeremiah Leaming, an Evangel signee, returns in the outfield after hitting .300 with 10 RBI’s and four stolen bases. He also pitched to a 4.2 ERA. Senior Cade Wilson also returns to the outfield. And senior Eric Fitch, a second baseman and outfielder, returns after hitting .417 with five doubles, 16 RBI’s and seven stolen bases. He went 6-1 on the mound with a 1.85 ERA, earned first team All-COC honors as a utility player and was named to the All-Class 5 District 6 team.

Seniors Cooper Crouch and Gavin Stowell also return after contributing. Crouch, a pitcher and DH, posted a 2.03 ERA last spring and has signed with Crowder College. And Stowell is a left-handed pitcher and outfielder who’s signed with Highland Community College.

“They’re a great group,” Darnell said. “Our senior class is very dedicated. Cooper Crouch logged the most appearances and Gavin Stowell will see time in the outfield and pitch. He was slated to be one of our top three or four pitchers but he got hurt. It’s a senior class that’s got some experience and they like baseball. They were a group I coached when they were freshmen when I first came to Webb City and I’ve got a special place for those guys in my heart. They’re fun to coach and we’re expecting big things out of them.”

Junior Kenley Hood could play first base for Webb City after hitting .319 in junior varsity action. Junior Landon Johnson could fill in for Fitch at second and serve as the team’s fourth infielder. Junior Cy Darnell, a .411 hitter in JV who drove in 16 and stole 13 bases, should play at shortstop, and his cousin (and Flave’s son) Kaylor Darnell looks to be at third base. The junior pitched to a 3.5 ERA as a sophomore and batted .309 in JV action.

Joining Wilson and Leaming in the outfield will be junior William Hayes, a .357 JV hitter who stole 14 bases. And Stowell will be a defensive replacement in the outfield.

Sophomores Drew Vonder Haar and Brett Korth and junior McQuade Eilenstein could also earn playing time.

Fitch, who became the team’s No. 2 starter last year, will help anchor the pitching staff with Stowell, the lefty, and Crouch, who could pitch as a starter and a reliever. And the team expects big things out of Kaylor Darnell and junior Walker Sweet on the mound. Leaming should also pitch in relief and potentially start. Junior Gage Chapman will also pitch after posting a 1.07 ERA and 4-1 record at the JV level.

“We’ve got to replace Cole Gayman as our No. 1,” Darnell said. “He had a great year last year, an all-conference pitcher, but we feel like we’ve got some guys back and maybe as a whole our staff can be equally as good or a tick better the more experience we get. We feel that can definitely be a strength for us.”

Darnell said most of the team’s roster saw action in about 35 games last summer so there’s quite a bit of returning experience overall.

“Maybe right when we start we’ll go through some lumps when you replace a senior class like you’ve got to replace but we think we’ve got a chance to be really good by the end of the season,” he said.

The Cardinals will host a jamboree on March 11th with Carl Junction and Republic participating. The regular season begins on March 18th against Verdigris.

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