A day before his team’s first practice on Wednesday, Sedalia Post 642 Senior American Legion manager Mark Carey conceded he hadn’t gotten a good look at the Travelers’ 18-man roster.
The second-year skipper didn’t make the April 22 tryout, which drew in 18 players with zero cuts made, and with Tipton’s and Marshall’s seasons prolonged by extended playoff runs, the only players he’s familiar with are the seven he coached at Smith-Cotton during the prep season.
But despite the unknown and despite his crew being just three days away from the season opener on Saturday in Independence, Carey’s not worried one bit.
That was represented on Tuesday when he was asked about his expectations for a program coming off back-to-back losing campaigns.
“I would hope to win 35 to 40 games and lose around 15,” said Carey, who called the summer Legion slate a “major league schedule.”
That would be a stark turnabout for a program that has won a collective 45 games over the past two summers, finishing 22-25 last year and 23-24 the year before.
“I would think we’re better than last year,” Carey said. “We started off so hot last year because the kids felt like they needed to prove something, but then we really struggled down the stretch and just lost steam. This year, we’ll try to prepare the kids and avoid that.”
With Smith-Cotton representing 39 percent of the team, the 18-man roster includes four Marshall players, two each from Windsor and Tipton, and a single representative from Northwest, Cole Camp and Lakeland.
“It’s a good group,” Carey said. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about these kids.”
On the mound, the Travelers will have a bevy of solid arms. That includes Tipton ace Collin Nolting; Northwest ace Cortlen Austin; Marshall’s Aaron Skinner, Zach Bishop and Tyler Hunt; Windsor’s Mason Briggs; Lakeland’s Dalton Dull; and from Smith-Cotton, Dalton Christian, Ian Dotson, Masson McCown, Charles Chadwick and closer Austin Bullerd.
“We have a lot of options and we’ll just work from there,” Carey said.
While Carey would like to have had a bigger turnout at the lone tryout, the Travelers do possess depth in the field.
Austin, Briggs, Hunt, Skinner, Bishop and Dull embody the utility role in that they truly can play anywhere except at catcher, which will be split between Brendan Rusk and Austin Hoffmann.
Tipton’s Zane Stover should occupy first base, and in the outfield Chadwick, Christian, Dotson and Jeremy Williams should split time.
As for the offense, with the bulk of the team coming from smaller schools, the players will have to get used to facing Legion talent on the mound.
“We’ve got a lot of small-school guys and even our guys are going from seeing what we throw to 85 and 90 every day. It’s going to be a big adjustment for our guys.”