By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Logan-Rogersville baseball took another big step forward last season with the program’s first 20-win season since 2014’s final four squad.
The 2021 Wildcats finished with a 22-5 record, falling to Ava in the district tournament.
While expectations were high, head coach Casey Ledl, entering his ninth season at the helm, was pleased with his young team’s development throughout the season.
“Obviously, not having a season two years ago was a major blow to our program, forcing us to play many inexperienced kids,” Ledl said. “We didn’t have a lot of experience but knew we had a lot of talent coming back. We really felt like we had an outstanding team coming in, but going 22-5 was unexpected due to the experience factor.”
Six graduated seniors have moved on in Drew Cornelison (St. Louis Community College), Parker Thiemann, Colton Burney (Dordt University – football), Gavin Nally (Hannibal-LaGrange University), Colin Archer and Hunter Wray.
Cornelison earned all-state honors.
“It’s tough to lose this group of seniors,” Ledl said. “They were great kids who were devoted to our program and to our coaching staff but were unbelievable teammates. They represented Logan-Rogersville and each other in an outstanding way and paved the way for some younger talented kids to know what our brand of baseball is all about.”
A quartet of returning senior starters will lead Rogersville this season, including Tanner Petersen, Blythe Blakey, Clay Palen and Hunter Lewis.
Petersen, a 6-foot-1 pitcher/infielder, hit .362 last season with 17 runs batted in and 13 stolen bases. He also posted a 3-1-0 record on the mound with a 2.01 ERA.
“Excellent leader, starting shortstop, part of top four in the rotation and ended up hitting leadoff for us because of his on base skills,” Ledl said of Petersen.
Blakey, a 5-foot-11 pitcher/infielder, hit .326 with 1 home run, 20 runs batted in and 5 stolen bases in 2021. On the mound, he finished with a 5-2-2 record and an ERA of 2.59.
An all-state selection, Blakey has committed to State Fair Community College.
“Jack of all trades kind of kid,” Ledl said. “[Blakey] ended up playing several different positions but mainly third base, was in the top four of our rotation, logged our most pitching innings and wins, and hit three hole for us with his consistently good at-bats.”
Palen, a 6-foot infielder, hit .263 with 18 runs batted in and 12 stolen bases. He has committed to Missouri Baptist University.
“Stat sheet does not show it, but Clay was an on-base percentage machine (.496) as our two-hole hitter,” Ledl said. “Led the team in walks, hit by pitches and still managed to log 20 hits on top of that.”
Lewis, a 6-foot-2 infielder, hit .329 with 26 runs batted in and 6 stolen bases.
“Big, strong first baseman,” Ledl said. “[Lewis] ended up hitting five hole for us and was a solid consistent presence at first base with only 2 errors on the year.”
Additional returning starters include junior catcher Noah Carrow (.313 BA, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 1 SB), junior pitcher/infielder Curry Sutherland (.356 BA, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 7 SB, 5-0-0, 1.45 ERA), junior outfielder Logan Taylor and sophomore pitcher/outfielder Ross Lawrence (5-1-0, 2.50 ERA).
Sutherland received all-state honors as a sophomore.
Senior infielder Tristan James and junior pitcher/infielder Torin Trent also return for the Wildcats.
Rogersville will also welcome a host of varsity newcomers this season, including Caden Hendee, Zach Higdon, Caleb Cole, Kellen Marlin, Noah Higdon, Cooper Martin, Sam Rostic, Jackson Rousey, Chase Hampton, Carter Hill, Thessen Prenger, Brady Buckman, Kolby Ballowe, Zane Hunter, Cameron Nuckolls, Grant Reeves and Cameron Wray.
“We are very excited about this group of extremely talented kids and have extremely high expectations,” Ledl said. “The future of our program is very strong for the next several years. Complacency will be our number one enemy, but I believe we have the focus and determination to overcome that. Our kids know that every year the goal is to win the conference, win the district and go compete in the playoffs to try to win a championship.”
The key to Rogersville’s success starts on the mound, according to Ledl.
“Our pitching depth will be a strength for us with several returning kids who can fill innings,” Ledl said. “I also believe this lineup can really provide some pop. Our kids have really committed to the weight and have gotten bigger, stronger and faster. We are very excited about the hard work they have put in to be better athletes and baseball players.”
Following a March 12 jamboree at U.S. Ballpark, Rogersville opens its season March 19 at Webb City.