The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


March 24, 2014

Eagles to open baseball season

Joplin plays Pryor on Thursday in Tiger-Zebra Classic

Joplin High School’s Kirk Harryman was an optimistic baseball coach on Monday.

Knock on wood, of course, when it comes to injuries. But Harryman, who’s in his 15th season with the Eagles, believes they can become a quality ballclub. Just as important, Harryman said, the players believe it.

Joplin launches its season on Thursday in the Tiger (Pryor)-Zebra (Claremore) Classic.

The Eagles, in Pool A at Pryor, tackle the Tigers at 7 p.m. Joplin completes pool play at Pryor on Friday with games against Grove at 2 p.m. and against Skiatook at 4:30. Joplin also will play on Saturday with the contest at either Claremore or Pryor.

Joplin’s home opener will be at 4:30 p.m. on April 1 against Webb City at Wendell Redden Field in the Joplin Athletic Complex

Harryman’s probable opening lineup will be familiar to fans who watched the Eagles last spring and the Joplin Miners during the American Legion campaign last summer.

The probable order, Harryman said, has junior shortstop Chris Leonardi leading off. Hitting second through fourth are junior second baseman Johnny Maturino, senior center fielder Gavin Jones and senior third baseman Tristan Ash.

Completing the likely order: senior Colton Johnson at first base, junior Dylan Barnhart or senior Josh Miller the designated hitter for the pitcher, junior Austin Zengel in left field, senior Tyson Hardee behind the plate and junior Will Sitton in right.

Tyler Fancher or Kealin Smith, both senior right-handers, will open on the mound Thursday night, Harryman said.

“Thursday’s starter probably will start Saturday’s game,” Harryman added.

Gavin Williamson, outfielder who’s battling a quad strain, is the remaining  Joplin senior, Harryman said.

Outfielders also include the Duley cousins — Skyler, a junior, and freshman Mark.

Other pitchers: Ash, Barnhart, Zengel, sophomore Tyler McGrew, junior Corey Ball, both Duleys, junior Matt Wells and sophomore Paul Hilbert. Barnhart is the only left-hander.

“I really like this team,” Harryman said. “The players have been working very hard. We’re excited about the season.

“We saw areas in which we need improvement in our jamboree (last Wednesday at Carthage with Monett),” Harryman said. “We saw other areas in which we could see that hard work is paying off.

“Out defense was OK (at the jamboree) for this time in the season,” Harryman said. “We swung the bats well. We needed more consistency from the pitching.”

Harryman will be assisted by Drew Schulte (hitting is his emphasis), Bob Tignor (pitching), Kevin Burgi and Dusty VanGilder (freshman).

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