The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 20, 2013

Defending champ Frontenac finding its stride

By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer

— As the season began, the Frontenac Raiders baseball team was feeling the pressure of being the defending state champs.

The Raiders returned the nucleus from last year’s Kansas Class 3A title team and entered as heavy favorites to win the CNC.

“The one thing I’ve noticed is that the pressure has grown on them,” Frontenac coach Bill Sullivan said. “With all of the expectations put on them, they seemed afraid to let people down. They’re not as easy going and relaxed as last year.”

Still, the Raiders have handled the expectations well. Frontenac improved to 12-0 overall and 8-0 in the league after posting wins of 9-7 and 10-1 against Baxter Springs on Friday.

Sullivan said his team is beginning to regain the mentality it displayed last season.

“They’re just coming out and playing the game right now,” he said. “Early, they had been playing on their heels, playing not to lose. Last year, they were on a mission to go win the game. This year, we’ve been on our heels a few times. I think we’re getting past that. I tell them to just go play the game.”

The Raiders boast the talent to let the game come to them with four players signed to play college baseball. Pitchers Blake Vail and Matt Standlee have signed with Pittsburg State. Catcher Bryan Wade inked with NCAA Division II’s Wisconsin-Parkside, and outfielder Bryce Burdette is headed to NAIA school Missouri Valley.

Frontenac was hitting .342 as a team from stats through the first 10 games. All nine regulars were batting at least .300.

“That’s the thing I’ve been the most pleased with,” Sullivan said. “I feel like the bats have been pretty sound. If somebody doesn’t get it done, someone else will. We’re going up there with the right approach. We’re moving people over when we need to.”

Vail leads the Raiders with a .448 batting average, posting 13 hits, one double and nine runs batted in through 10 games. Brett Macary is hitting .410 with two doubles, four triples and 13 RBI. He is batting .417 with runners in scoring position.

Wade and Standlee aren’t far behind, batting .382 and .379, respectively.

Macary, Standlee and Vail also lead the way on the mound. Macary is 1-0 with a 0.63 ERA in five outings. Standlee is 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 18 innings. Vail is 4-0 with a 3.44 ERA and 24 strikeouts in five games.

The Raiders continue CNC play with a doubleheader at Galena on Monday. Frontenac will finish league action with doubleheaders against Columbus and Southeast.

After conference, Frontenac’s focus will turn to 4A regionals as the school moved up a class this season. To get back to the state tournament, the Raiders first must get through a nine-team regional at Altamont with Labette County, Baxter Springs, Coffeyville, Columbus, Girard, Independence, Parsons and Pittsburg.

“We don’t need anything to motivate these guys,” Sullivan said. “They are very competitive in nature. But the challenge of 4A is intriguing for them. They’ve heard people say they can’t do it in 4A. We know it’s extremely tough. We’re not looking away from that. They’re driven by it. They’re excited about the challenge.”