The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 18, 2013

District champ Seneca prepares to face Warrensburg

By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer

— Seneca High School baseball coach Chris Yust expected a successful season from the Indians based on a solid 2012 campaign.

The Indians delivered in a big way and perhaps aren’t finished.

Seneca, 20-4 overall and Big 8 Conference champion at 6-1, won the Class 4 District 11 Tournament on its field and will entertain Warrensburg (13-6) at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the sectional round of the MSHSAA playoffs.

“We thought we had a chance to be a good team,” Yust said. “We have great team chemistry. The players go out and do their job. It also is a fun group.”

Seneca defeated fellow Big 8 Conference member Monett 10-2 on Tuesday night to win District 11. Seneca then was able to scout Warrensburg the next night as it beat Nevada 15-4 for District 12 supremacy.

“They swung the bats very well,” Yust said of Warrensburg. “They’re athletic. Definitely, their offense is a strength.”

Warrensburg seniors Jared Allnutt and Brett Marr each hit home runs and combined for 11 RBI against Nevada.

Warrensburg opened the season with eye-opening wins at Willard (21-13) and Springfield Kickapoo (8-3).

“Then, the doggone weather,” Warrensburg coach David Liebnitz said. “It seemed for a while we were playing just one game a week. It was hard to keep any consistency at the plate.”

Liebnitz, in his 15th season at Warrensburg, agreed that his team has authored several high-scoring games this season.

“Obviously, a hot arm (on the mound) can take care of that,” Liebnitz said.

Marr, a senior shortstop, is averaging more than .500 for the Tigers of the West Central Conference (Nevada’s future home).

“The seniors, all of them in our program, lead our team,” Liebnitz said.

Liebnitz said the conference this season had two more district champions in  Kansas City schools O’Hara — his alma mater — and St. Pius X.

Liebnitz said Warrensburg had been in the largest class in MSHSAA the previous four years before the expansion to five classes for this season left the Tigers in Class 4.

Yust plans to start senior left-hander Colton Webber on the mound against Warrensburg. Webber, 8-1 with a 3.55 ERA, has struck out 64 and walked 34 in 51 innings.

The Indians have three players with averages of more than .400 in Dalan Merriman .447, Payton Rawlins .427 and Marty Mailes .425. Seneca, which is averaging .347 as a team, also has Cade Cornett at .389 and Webber and Kyler Ng at .382.

Rawlins is ahead of Mailes 32-31 in RBI and they’ve combined for 27 extra-base hits. Merriman has scored 38 runs and Ng leads Webber 23-21 in stolen bases.

Junior right-handers Merriman and Rawlins support Webber on the mound. Rawlins is 6-2 with two saves and Merriman is 5-0 with four saves.

Yust, who’s assisted by Bob Coffey and Dale Sanders, is in his seventh season as head coach after assisting his dad, Mike, for five years. Chris Yust, a 1996 Seneca graduate, attended Crowder College before graduating from Northwest Missouri State.

Carl Junction kept Seneca from an unbeaten finish in the Big 8. The Indians also have lost to Cassville and Mount Vernon in tournament competition.

The Seneca-Warrensburg winner faces Rogersville or Sullivan in the quarterfinals.