Pitching depth and a veteran line-up provide hope for the Sedalia Post 642 senior Legion baseball team.
“We’ve got pretty good pitching, as far as depth goes,” Travelers manager Mark Carey said. “It all depends on if they can go out there and throw strikes.”
The Travelers return five everyday players and six overall from a team that closed the 2012 season strong, reaching the championship round of the Zone 2 tournament.
Pitcher-outfielder-first baseman Dalton Christian, pitcher-outfielder Ian Dotson, shortstop Henry Tietz, catcher Zach Bishop, pitcher/corner infielder Lane Soendker and pitcher Austin Bullerd helped the Travelers beat the Blue Springs A’s three times in the postseason, which fueled their playoff run.
Post 642 beat the A’s 11-9 to reach the championship round of the zone tournament. The A’s went 3-1 against the Travelers during the regular season. The Travelers finished second to Blue Springs-Fike in the district tournament.
Christian and Dotson are expected to be key cogs in the starting rotation and both can hit with power.
Bishop and Tietz, both of Marshall, will be the primary starters at their positions and both will pitch.
Tietz only pitched sparingly last year because of an injury, but Carey said that his arm is back to normal strength and will bring good velocity while pitching in relief.
Bishop, along with Christian and Dotson have already signed to play college baseball, and Tietz became fixtures in the starting line-up once they joined the team full-time in July. They played sparingly early because Marshall High School reached the state semifinals and played for another summer team in Marshall.
“They’ll be with (us) all year, with a year under their belts,” Carey said. “They were awfully good as juniors, and I expect more from them as seniors.”
Several newcomers are expected to be key contributors, led by Sacred Heart’s Caleb Tanguay, who will start at second base for the Travelers.
“Tanguay can swing it pretty well,” Carey said.
So well that he will bat near the top of the lineup, Carey said.
Tietz, Christian, Bishop (a lefty) and Dotson will join Tanguay in the heart of the Travelers’ batting order.
Look for pitcher-corner infielder A.J. Paul to find plenty of at-bats early on.
“Hopefully, he’ll be able to continue on what he did in the high school season,” Carey, a Smith-Cotton assistant coach, said. “He’s one of those guys who’ll surprise a lot of people.”
Ten newcomers round out the team’s roster.
Seven of the 10 played on Smith-Cotton’s varsity squad. They are middle infielder Luke Archibeque, pitcher-first baseman Cody Kozak, outfielder Chance McMullen, pitcher Taylor Schubert, and catcher-third baseman Spencer Ruckman.
Carey likes having 10 former and current Smith-Cotton players on his roster.
“They all know what it takes and are familiar with me and my style of coaching,” Carey said. “They know how I expect them to win ballgames and have the right attitude on a daily basis.”
Archibeque will see plenty of action at shortstop and second base, filling in for starters Tietz and Tanguay.
Matt Miles, of Knob Noster, was his high school team’s ace pitcher and is a solid outfielder.
“Matt Miles will help us out in the outfield,” Carey said. “He swings it and plays outfielder among the best.”
Darion Lawrence, of Marshall, brings versatility to the line-up. Carey believes Lawrence can play anywhere on the field, except catcher.
The team will have only one practice under its belt before its season opener on Saturday. He plans to work his team out on Thursday night.
The Travelers (23-31 last season) begin play in the Independence tournament at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. They are set to face the Lee’s Summit Pirates, followed by Blue Springs-Fike at 3 p.m.
On Sunday, the Travelers is scheduled to face the Lee’s Summit Outlaws at 12:30 p.m. and an undetermined opponent at 3 p.m.
All games will be played at the Independence Sports Complex.
Carey hopes his team doesn’t dig an early hole as it did last season. His team opened the season with 16 losses in its first 22 games.
“It can be tough in the beginning,” Carey said. “Guys are playing with different people. It takes a while to build that chemistry, understand their roles and what is expected of them.”
Once again, the Travelers will host the state tournament Aug. 1-3 and will host a district tournament from July 18-22.
The zone tournament will be July 25-28 in Blue Springs.