The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 19, 2013

Eagles return experience, hope to make 'next jump'

By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer

— Six players with starting experience will lead Kirk Harryman’s 14th edition as baseball coach at Joplin High School.

The Eagles, 13-13 overall and 5-4 in the Ozark Conference last season, launch their campaign today with a 4:30 p.m. varsity-junior varsity nonconference doubleheader at Willard.

“We lost eight games by two runs or less last season,” Harryman said on Monday. “Hopefully, we can make the next jump.”

The six Eagles with starting experience include senior third baseman Brett Graham. Harryman has the right-handed batting Graham penciled in as a starter for the third year.

Completing the six are junior designated hitter Tristan Ash, senior second baseman Nathan Brummer (moving from left field), sophomore shortstop Chris Leonardi (moving from second base), junior center fielder Gavin Jones (moving from right field) and senior first baseman Adam St. Peter.

St. Peter and Ash also are expected to lead the Eagles in pitching, Harryman said.

Leonardi, Brummer and Graham are the first three batters in today’s probable order, Harryman said.

Harryman listed St. Peter at first base and the No. 4 hitter. Rounding out the order: Ash, junior left fielder Colton Johnson, Jones, junior catcher Kealin Smith and senior right fielder Nathan Tackkett.

“That starting lineup isn’t etched in stone,” Harryman said. “We aren’t 100 percent sure of Adam (St. Peter) because of a strained oblique.”

“Also, Ash has a sore elbow,” Harryman said. “Tyler McGrew, a freshman right-hander, will make the start on the mound. We plan to use several guys on the mound because of the injuries to St. Peter and Ash. Hopefully, they will be able to pitch next week.

“We have several quality arms,” Harryman said. “We’re deep on the mound. We need to battle through some injuries this week.

“We have nine seniors and all have been doing an excellent job leading the team,” Harryman said.

Harryman is expecting production from seniors Blake Brown and Hank Millard as right-handed hurlers.

“Blake (Brown) also will compete for playing time in the outfield,” Harryman said. “Hank (Millard) also can be an asset on the infield. Obviously, both players can serve as the designated hitter.”

Harryman said that juniors Chase Hall and Josh Miller will compete for time as an outfielder/right-handed pitcher and first baseman, respectively.

Other upperclassmen expected to help include junior right-handed pitcher Tyler Fancher, senior right-handed pitcher Caleb Garton, junior catcher Tyson Hardee, senior outfielder/right-handed pitcher Johnny Presley, senior outfielder/left-handed pitcher Rex Whisner and junior outfielder Gavin Williamson.

Other sophomores include outfielder/left-handed pitcher Dylan Barnhart and a quartet of infielder/right-handed pitchers — Corey Ball, Johnny Maturino, Matt Wells and Austin Zengel.

Another freshman hurler, southpaw Zach Hall, will be traveling with the Eagles, Harryman said.

Notes: Returning to assist Harryman are Bob Tignor, Drew Schulte and Skyler Rawlins. New this season is Dustin VanGilder. Schulte also is freshman coach and will be helped by VanGilder. Harryman, a product of Neosho High School and Missouri Southern, assisted Tignor three years before taking the reins. ... The Eagles’ home debut is set for 4:30 p.m. on Thursday against Nevada on Wendell Redden Field at the Joplin Athletic Complex. ... St. Peter — with Carthage senior Drew Bridges — is on Springfield News-Leader’s inaugural American Family Insurance Preseason All-Ozarks Team.