Ben Baier may have a first season as a head coach to remember.

Ben Baier may have a first season as a head coach to remember.
His co-defending champion Blue Springs South Jaguars are a narrow favorite to claim the Suburban Big Seven title this spring.
The other co-champion Blue Springs, in The Examiner’s poll of the coaches, finished second followed by Lee’s Summit North, Liberty, Lee’s Summit, Raymore-Peculiar and St. Joseph Central. A coach couldn’t vote for his own team.
North, with four, had the most first-place votes. But fourth and sixth-place votes dragged it down to third.
Letter winners Derek Cox, Danny McMurtrey, Austin Rodriguez, Stuart Pudenz, Chase Mason and Logan Moon return from a 23-4 South team (10-2 conference).
“I think pitching and defense will be strong points for our team throughout the season,” said Baier, who was an assistant South coach under longtime and now retired Richard Wood. “We are returning a solid group of pitchers who have gotten a lot of good experience over the past couple of years.”

BLUE SPRINGS
Three starters are among lettermen Kyle Seithel, Sam Guffey, Evan Brandt, Jordan Brown, Greg Wisner and Andrew Rider returning from a 19-5 Blue Springs team.
“We return three starters, so getting varsity experience early will be important,” coach Marc Hines said. “”We hope that the young guys will step up and be good varsity players.
“Going into the season we are planning on Seithel to be our No. 1 starter and we will need to build our staff around him. Senior Rider, sophomore Zac Bulter and others will need to step up to the challenge.”

LEE'S SUMMIT NORTH
North comes off a fine 16-9 season and a third-place conference finish.
And in returnees Gavin Stark, Dylan Jenson, Dustin Ulrich, Austin Hill, Brad Phillips and Caleb Cole the Broncos likely will have another successful, including challenging for the conference  title.
“We have some key people to fill but have a pretty good group of juniors and seniors coming back,” coach Jeff Diekmann said. “I am excited about what we can do. I think our pitching will be good.”

LIBERTY
Liberty is hopeful lettermen Kevin Staff, Jimmy Smelcer, Tyler Sullivant, Paul Krogmeier, Nathan LeBlanc and Dominic LaRocca will enable the Blue Jays to improve upon a 12-12-1 season.

LEE’S SUMMIT
Lee’s Summit was last season’s Suburban Big Six champion. The Tigers finished 19-7, including 9-1 in the conference.
Returnees are Allen Salavitch, Brad Law, Matt Dorrs, Corbin Berkstresser, Austin Welch, David Gerke, Jarret Eiskina and Tony Botts.
“We return seven starters,” coach Jim Mellody said. “We have a chance to be competitive in every game.”

RAYMORE-PECULIAR
The Panthers, with eight, return more lettermen than any team in the conference.
They are Travis Hunt, Anthony Martin, Josh Ragsdale, Hardee Johnson, Mark Sappington, Huntley Shiplet, Justin VanCamp and Austin Nowell.
Coach Gary Renshaw is hopeful the Panthers can bounce back from a 5-15 season

ST. JOSEPH CENTRAL
The Indians have a new coach in Justin McCarthy and will compete for the first time in the Big Seven with only four lettermen from a 9-10 team, Josh Thomson, Jonathan McCann, Ethan Boyer ad Keaton Steele.
“We will be young but have several players looking to lock up a varsity spot as an underclassmen,” McCarthy said. “We will be very competitive and will improve as the season goes along.”

HOW COACHES VOTED
School                             1    2    3    4    5    6    TP
1. Blue Springs South      1    3    2    0    0    0    13
2. Lee's Summit North      4    0    0    1    0    1    14

3. Blue Springs                 0    4    1    1    0    0    18

4. Liberty                           1    0    3    1    1    0    19
5. Lee’s Summit        1    0    1    3    1    0    21
6. Raymore-Peculiar    0    0    0    0    5    1    31
7. St. Joseph Central    0    0    0    1    0    5    44