2022 Spring Preview: Walnut Grove Baseball

By Chris Parker

Walnut Grove baseball has a new head coach in Mason Sanders this year. He was previously an assistant at Crane for a year and a half. He will be looking to help the Tigers bounce back from a 7-12 season.

“I’m excited to work with this group of young men and see how this spring plays out,” Sanders said. “I get to start my head coaching career with a class of seniors who work hard and enjoy the game of baseball. There isn’t much more I can ask for. I hope to see these seniors be leaders to these younger boys who will take over the program when they graduate.”

Things start with seniors Gavin Fortner (catcher/pitcher), Lane Holman (senior outfield/pitcher) and Michael Stogsdill (senior infield/pitcher)

“(They) are three returning starters going into their senior years,” Sanders said. “They will be some of our biggest contributors with their bats as well as seeing plenty of time on the mound.”

Fortner is a hard-throwing right-hander. He pitched 24.1 innings with 37 strikeouts while hitting .404 with a.510 on-base percentage. The senior scored 14 runs and drove in seven. Fortner will catch when not pitching.

Holman brings a solid breaking ball to the hill. He pitched 17.2 innings with 27 strikeouts. At the plate, Holman tied for the team lead with 19 RBI while scoring 11 runs. He will also play centerfield.

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Stogsdill challenges hitters and fills up the zone. At the plate, he hit .250 with a .320 on-base percentage. Stogsdill will play in the middle infield.

Calvin Smith (senior), Cody Keith (senior) and Johnny Keith (sophomore) will also see time pitching. Smith tied for the team-lead in innings pitched last year with 24.1. He will also play in the middle infield. Cody Keith was the everyday third baseman last year and will return to that position when not pitching. Johnny Keith will be in the outfield or first base.

The rest of the infield will feature Tanner McMillen (sophomore) at first base and AJ Hagan (junior) in the middle infield.

Landon, Tanner and Rhett McMillen along with Hagan and Miguel Najara are all candidates to play in the outfield.

“I believe there is a good amount of experience that will benefit this team. Only losing one senior from last year allows us to have nine guys with regular varsity experience ready to get on the field this year,” Sanders said. “Our pitching and defense is where we need to improve the most. From the stats last year, ⅓ of our runs allowed were unearned. Limiting free bases via walk, HBP, and errors defensively will allow us to compete at a higher level.”

Walnut Grove opens the season Mar. 21-26 at the Verona Tournament.

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