It wasn’t a jab at the Post 642 Senior Legion Travelers, just an affirmation of the confidence he has in his new team.
Seated in the home dugout at Liberty Park Stadium’s Dey Field moments before his team’s second practice of the summer on Thursday, Rick Ball Ford Sedalia Post 642 Auxiliary Juniors skipper Seth Hutchison was asked to compare his Junior American Legion crew with the senior bunch.
“I really don’t think there’s much of a difference,” said Hutchison, whose team will kick off the season this weekend in the Memorial Day tournament at Liberty Park. “It’s just baseball. Albert Pujols once played Junior Legion. ... You have to throw the ball, hit the ball and catch the ball. And I think we can do that with the best of them.”
Based on the collection of talent on the roster, his optimism is warranted.
A year after finishing 30-16, Post 642 has a 17-man roster of the best local talent. That includes 12 players from Smith-Cotton, two each from Sacred Heart and Tipton and one from Knob Noster. Of those 17, 11 saw major varsity minutes this past prep season.
“We only cut two,” Hutchison said of the late April tryout. “And they were pretty good.”
As of Thursday, Hutchison hadn’t gotten a good look at the pitching staff, but he knows he has a stable of arms ready to put up zeros.
Smith-Cotton’s Taylor Schubert should be the staff ace, Knob Noster’s Matt Miles will likely be the No. 2 and Smith-Cotton’s A.J. Paul and Cody Kozak will likely round out the rotation. Smith-Cotton’s Dominic Zerilli, Lane McFail and Zac Callahan will serve as innings-eaters.
“We’ll get a better look tonight and try some guys out,” Hutchison said.
Effective or not, Hutchison believes the pitching staff will have a sure-handed defense to back it up after a solid tryout and first team practice on Wednesday night.
“No question about our defense,” he said. “If they play like I’ve seen them play, we should be very good defensively.”
That starts behind the plate, which will have S-C’s Trevor Rialti and SH’s Mason Kelchner. On the right side of the infield, S-C’s Callahan and Kozak and Tipton’s Chad Stover will split time at first, and Schubert, Paul and S-C’s Steven Bradbury will get looks at second base.
On the left side of the infield, S-C’s Luke Archibeque will start at shortstop and Spencer Ruckman and Zerilli will split time at the hot corner.
In the outfield, S-C teammates Aaron Dieckman and McFail will compete for playing time in left, SH’s Jackson Smith, who drew the praise of Hutchison for his expansive defense, and S-C’s Caleb Hurley will compete for time in center and Miles will start in right.
As for offense, Hutchison says his team will hope to utilize its speed and will be “a small-ball team.”
Added up, does that mean another above-.500 campaign is in the cards? Hutchison thinks so.
“We consider ourselves to be very good,” he said. “Every game should at least be close, and we plan on winning most of them.”