2022 Spring Preview: Mansfield Baseball

By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

Yes, the close loss in a district semifinal stung. However, that’s not what the coach of the Mansfield High School baseball team is taking into this season.

Instead, the team’s performance of last fall left folks optimistic.

“It motivates us to think we could have had a special season last year, and we came up short,” Joe Garrison said. “We made a commitment to have a heart of a champion in all that we do. We went from a team with a batting average of .246 last spring to .307 this fall. Our on-base percentage rose 73 points as well over that same time. We finished the fall as Summit Conference Fall Tournament champions, and that has only made us hungry for more.”

Mansfield, which finished 9-10 last spring, anticipates having 17 players on the varsity roster this season. That includes seven seniors.

Pitching staff

The pitching staff features seniors Brayden Barnett and (left-hander) Dylan Robertson, and sophomore Kellar Davis. Look for relievers in senior Carter Brooke, sophomores Kaden Coble, Carter Garrison, and freshman Charlie Grubbs.

Barnett was 6-1 with a 4.50 earned run average this past fall. He struck out 38 in 30 innings and issued seven walks.

“He has the ability to overpower teams at times and has great command of the strike zone,” Garrison said. “In six starts this fall, Brayden threw three complete games and two shutouts.”

In the fall, Robertson was 2-1 with a 4.79 ERA and 26 strikeouts and nine walks in 26.1 innings. He also pitched a complete game.

“He uses movement and command of the zone to get hitters out,” Garrison said. “His movement from the left side helps him prevent hitters from really squaring up the ball, inducing pop-ups and grounders.”

Davis delivered three complete games in the fall, when he struck out 40 and issued nine walks in 33.2 innings. He had a 2.14 earned run average and was 3-2, including a shutout.

“He may only be a sophomore on the mound, however, his game IQ is much older,” Garrison said. “His overwhelming competitive drive carries him on the mound.”

The relievers combined to throw 19 innings in the fall, with Brooke and Grubbs recording a save apiece.

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Offense

The projected roster also features sophomore Kaden Coble and junior Tanner Indendi possibly at catcher, senior first baseman Madix Gray, senior second baseman Trevor Williams, Davis at shortstop, and either Brooke or Coble at third base.

Brooke also could be a significant utility man. He batted .404 with a team-best 20 RBI out of the leadoff spot, and stole 21 bases in 17 games.

“Carter may be the toughest player I have ever coached in 22 years,” Garrison said. “He has a quite but unassuming demeanor about him, but don’t take him for granted.”

Coble, who also can play third base and second base, not only had 11 RBI in the fall but is a good receiving catcher. Indendi threw out six base runners last fall.

Gray had 12 RBI as the clean-up hitter last fall, despite a knee issue.

“Madix has a good, line-drive swing and doesn’t strike out much,” Garrison said. “This led him to the clean-up slot in the batting order and puts him squarely in opportunities to make game impacts every day.”

Williams not only plays second base but is a shortstop when Davis pitches.

“Trevor has worked very hard and made himself a very gritty infielder who is not afraid to get dirty,” Garrison said. “He just may be poised to have his biggest offensive season yet. I wouldn’t bet against it.”

Davis is a plus shortstop, Garrison noted, and batted .306 with a .470 on-base percentage. He had a team-best 13 walks and only six strikeouts.

“I look for him to add more quality swings to his patient approach and become a very good hitter for us in the near future,” Garrison said.

In the outfield, look for seniors in right fielder Ryin Long, center fielder Jack Gubbs and left fielder Brayden Barnett, with Robertson in the mix, too.

Grubbs is a vocal leader. Not only did he reach base 41 percent of the time in the fall (three doubles, 10 RBI), but he’s coming into his own.

“Jack is really understanding the impact he can have on this team and using his experience to settle down and make more productive at-bats,” Garrison said.

Barnett has been a full-time starter the past three seasons and had a successful fall, with a .477 batting average and .610 on-base percentage. He had five doubles and a triple.

“He has continued to grow as a hitter and has become a major run producer for us,” Garrison said. “His experience and ability can carry us throughout the spring.”

Robertson can bat as the designated hitter, too. He hit .300 and had a .451 on-base percentage in the fall. His three-run home run in the seventh inning of the conference championship game put the game away. He also pitched 6.1 innings.

Long is a key newcomer who took off after moving to the outfield. He committed only one error in 17 games and batted .333.

“Ryin provided a spark for us and really came through this fall,” Garrison said.

Other newcomers include sophomores in outfielder Brock Gray, second baseman Carter Garrison, outfielder Ashton Pierson, first baseman Judd Waterson, outfielder Austin Kingery and freshmen Charlie Grubbs and Blake Henry.

“Our mindset is to not limit our approach to goal-setting,” Garrison said. “We have a long tradition of high expectations, and that tradition goes on today. We try to focus our attention on what are the obstacles in our path and work hard daily to eliminate them one step at a time. This year we have seven seniors to lead the way and bring a lot of experience to a team hungry for more.”

Mansfield does not have a scheduled jamboree, but will open the season on March 18 against Willow Springs.

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