Here is a preview of Eastern Jackson County American Legion baseball teams for 2014.
BLUE SPRINGS POST 499 FIKE
Top returnees: Cale Benson, Nic Mertes, Alex Smith, Braden Younkin.
Newcomers: Derek Case, Nic Ehlen, Trevor Henson, Gage Jackson, Jake Krska, Tanner Lucas, Andrew Olson, Nate Pecota, Garrett Phillips, Blake Roberts, Kaleb Salmon, Victor Schofield, Sawyer Warren.
Coaching staff: Jim Moran, manager; Dave Benson, Joe Dutcher, Matt Hagerty, Robert White.
Manager’s comments: "We are returning just a few starters from last year’s team and therefore lack experience at this level of legion ball. However, all but two players on our roster have played legion baseball, 10 on our junior team and one on the Hi-Boy Drive-In senior team.
"The team showed a very positive attitude and work ethic in our winter workouts and has continued this spring for those who are not involved with their high school team. We are hoping that our defense will be improved and that the younger players make the adjustment to this level of baseball quickly. As most managers in baseball will tell you, we will go as far as our pitching will take us."
2013 finish: 28-18 (15-8 in Zone 2 East, second place).
2014 outlook: This likely is Moran’s most inexperienced team. But the winning tradition should be an inspiration, and if the pitching holds up, another winning season an eighth-consecutive winning season is possible.
BLUE SPRINGS RODS SPORTS A’S
Top returnees: Brandon Bennefeld, Nate Carlton, Jonathan Fink, Grant Gavin, Corbin Hare, Jeremy Lufft, Luke Miller, Kyle Reed, David Stober, Alex VanZandt.
Newcomers: Aaron Bennefeld, Kirk Finley, Dillion Jackson, Jared Lafal, Tanner Orr, Ramon Rivera, Zach Robinson.
Coaching staff: Mike Rooney, manager; Tom Bush, Phil Caldarella, Andrew Cottle, Jack Gillis, Clyde Kubli, Brad Mayfield.
Manager’s comments: "We need to develop come pitching. We have strong returning players plus a lot of talent with the new players. We hope to give the Lee’s Summit Post 189 Auxiliary Outlaws a run for their money."
2013 finish: 49-9 (21-5 in Zone 2 East, first place).
2014 outlook: Ten returning players give the A’s a solid nucleus to challenge for another zone title. Pitching could be the key in the A’s bid to be as strong as the 2013 team.
INDEPENDENCE POST 21
Top returnees: Nick Adrales, Quinton Brown, James Curtin, Nathan Davis, Cody Gregory, Justin Madsen, Corey Pleacher, Tanner Stone.
Newcomers: Tyler Cross, Terry Hancock, Benjamin Hellon, Mitchell Herrick, Matt Hughes, Jason Lyons, Justin Niccum, Myles Odom, Nick Pike, Andrew Wakeman.
Coaching staff: Tim Madsen manager; Dan Garcia, David Gregory, Chase Lafavor, Ross Paschall.
Manager’s comments: "We’ve had a sizable turnover in players from last year. Our new players moving up from the junior level will have to close the experience gap quickly. They will be helped by our nine veterans, four of which have played this past year at the collegiate level. We will need to rally behind strong pitching with consistent hitting and limit defensive errors. If we follow this plan, we’ll have a strong year."
2013 finish: 15-29 (10-16 in Zone 2 West, third place).
2014 outlook: An improved record is possible if the returnees and newcomers can jell into a solid unit. Pitching will be a big key.
INDEPENDENCE VFW POST 100 BEARS
Top returnees: Eli Henderson, Aaron Henry, Cody Jackson, Gannon Ogle, Grady Ogle.
Newcomers: Tyler Callahan, Will Fisher, Trevor Keckler. Kyle Pleacher, Trey Stout, Sam Wimberley, Tyler Woodward.
Coaching staff: Garrett Ogle, manager; Jason Reed, Randy Webb.
Manager’s comments: "With a tough year behind us, we are really optimistic going into 2014. These kids have played junior legion and two years of high school ball together. They should be ready to jell and feel success this summer. I am excited for these kids."
2013 finish: 2-33 (1-25 in Zone 2 West, fifth place).
2014 outlook: The Bears have ever experienced a winning season. They also might not this summer. There are only 12 players, so they must avoid injuries. But after all is said and done, a big improvement over the 2013 record is likely.
LEE’S SUMMIT POST 189 PIRATES
Top returnees: Austin Buhr, Tanner Glasper, Adam Howe, Dillon Howell, Quinton Lewis, Sal Nunez, Travis Simonin.
Newcomers: Payton Barens, Zach Bartlett, Xavier Boerger, Darren Clay, Blake Chura, Jared Snook.
Coaching staff: Matt Carpenter, manager; Isaac Carpenter, Andrew Diestel, Dayton Fossey, Josh Norris, Preston Pruett.
Manager’s comments: "Our team pitching looks to be strong, and we should hit the ball pretty well. We have added some experienced guys. I am hopeful that coupled with the fact that our returners have a lot of playing time under their belts, this will allow us to play smart and disciplined baseball. Defense will be a question mark for us, as we have a lot of good players but a couple who will have to play at their secondary position. On the whole we look to improve upon last year’s record."
2013 finish: 23-22 (10-10 in Zone 2 West, second place).
2014 outlook: Post 189 has enjoyed success in the pass and it should continue this summer. Seven returnees give manager Matt Carpenter a solid nucleus. The Pirates, however, again will have to contend with a loaded Auxiliary Outlaws team for the Zone 2 West title.
LEE’S SUMMIT POST 189 AUXILIARY OUTLAWS
Top returnees: Quentin Bradford, Blake Bruning, Herb Byers, Brett Conrow, Brian Conrow, Jackson Markham, Alex Schuler, P.J. Seufert, Seth Soto, Dalton Woods.
Newcomers: Kameron Gray, Miles Kilgore, Brock Overton, Chase Overton.
Coaching staff: Mike Gailey, manager; Dennis Covell, Dan Woods.
Manager’s comments: "We have a defensive-minded team with a deep and versatile roster. The team returns the top four pitchers responsible for 36 of last year’s 41 wins and added Miles Kilgore of Lee’s Summit North, who was a first-team all-conference pitcher. The team returns 10 players from last year’s squad.
"The core group has played together for the last four to six years. Despite a solid year in 2013, the team is motivated to achieve more in 2014. A weakness is the lower fifth of the roster is young and inexperienced at the American Legion level."
2013 finish: 41-10 (22-4, first place Zone 2 West).
2014 outlook: The Outlaws could be stronger than last season. They certainly are the favorite to repeat as the Zone 2 West titlist and could advance deep into the postseason playoffs. The pitching staff is the strongest in the Fifth District.
OAK GROVE POST 379: Requests for information were not answered.