The weather the past couple weeks has been bit kinder than last year for area spring sports teams to get some fresh air practices.
At least, Blue Springs South baseball coach Ben Baier said he can’t complain.
“We’ve already practiced more on our baseball field than we did all of a year ago, and the guys have done a good job inside,” said Baier, whose Jaguars went 14-8 last season and advanced to the Class 5 state quarterfinals. “We’ve got a group of guys that understand there’s things they can control. They’ve all been down this road before.”
That group of guys includes 12 returning letter winners, six of whom have signed to play college baseball next year, including pitcher Reece Eddins (Nebraska) and shortstop Colton Pogue (Western Illinois). Another senior, Patrick Lemberger, was on junior varsity last season behind a loaded varsity and has signed to play at Central Methodist.
While Baier said he believes his team’s schedule is one of the toughest in the state, he acknowledges other schools certainly view his team as making their schedules tougher. The Jaguars were ranked No. 1 in the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association preseason poll, but Baier said his players understand such outside expectations exist without talking much about them.
“We’re just worried about our fundamentals,” he said. “We expect to go out and play good baseball every day, and we play a tough schedule because believe it will help us at end of the season. Our record might not be as glamorous as it could.
“Every program across the state, their main goal is to get there (to state). The guys know it’s a fine line you walk. We’ve got a confident group of kids, but they understand the game is a little tricky and you’ve got to come out and compete every day.”
COLE TAKING IT SLOW: No fewer than nine girls from The Examiner area who qualified in individual events for the 2013 Class 4 state track and field meet were underclassmen last spring, most notably Fort Osage senior Asia Cole.
Cole won the shot put and placed fifth in the discus last year, but a knee injury that she aggravated in the last game of Fort Osage’s girls basketball season (a first-round loss) has limited her to “minimal practice,” as track coach J.D. Snead put it.
“She’s started off slow just to make sure she has time to rest and come back,” Snead said, adding that he anticipates Cole being in top form later in the season.
Cole, who has signed to compete in throwing events at the University of Nebraska, won both the shot and discus at state as a sophomore and placed second and seventh, respectively, as a freshman.
BEARS SPRINTING BACK: William Chrisman seniors DaVante and Dalvin Wilkerson, both four-event Class 4 state track qualifiers last season, suffered season-ending injuries during the football season. Chrisman coach Annie Dudek said while Dalvin is ready for track after breaking his collarbone, DaVante is doing rehabilitation for his surgically repaired knee.
“We’re still waiting for the doctors to clear him,” Dudek said. “We’re hoping he can be ready for conference.”
Dalvin Wilkerson placed fifth in the 100-meter dash last year at state, and DaVante also qualified for state in that event. Both qualified in the 200, as well, and they were part of qualifying 800 and 400-meter relays. The 800 relay placed sixth.