Opening region play winning three of four games against Three Rivers Community College, Roadrunners baseball has its sights on shaking up the usual standings in Region 16.
“Really the region is wide open this year,” said SFCC head coach Jud Kindle. “We just have to come out and play consistently every weekend.”
An encouraging start to region play last weekend holds more promise given some bats in the State Fair lineup have yet to warm up, Kindle said.
“I just think the region as a whole is a little more competitive, and I would like to think we’re right there in the running,” Kindle said. “But our focus can’t be there right now.”
One batsman swinging a dangerous stick is sophomore Brett Holden. He swatted two round-trippers during a four-hit performance Tuesday at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.
Reaching base at a clip of .489, Holden swiped his team-high fifth stolen base Thursday during a doubleheader sweep at Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City.
“I would take nine of him,” Kindle said of the Roadrunners shortstop. “He’s a (quality at-bat) machine. He finds a way to score. … He does a great job as a leadoff guy. Defensively, he’s about as good of a shortstop as you’re going to get. He’s really coming into his own.”
Filling out the left side of the defense, sophomore Kole Ficken, who played last season at Central Missouri, has also been a consistent source of contact in the lineup. He entered Thursday batting .419 with 31 hits, 10 doubles and seven walks.
Premium defensive duties behind the dish have been shared between freshmen Dylan Watson (Camdenton High) and Dylan Thompson (Boonville). Kindle said internal competition has led to the split assignment.
“That’s one of those positions we’re waiting for someone to step out and say I’m the guy,” Kindle said. “Watson is a better receiver and calls an extremely good game. Thompson might have the offensive edge. … It just so happens that we have two guys who are getting it done.”
The Roadrunners (15-9) opened its Friday home doubleheader with Three Rivers with two shutouts. Connor Barnes, freshman, struck out eight and allowed three baserunners in six frames during a seven-inning, 9-0 victory in the first game.
Peyton Seiz, sophomore, followed with nine Ks over seven innings in a 3-0 win that helped earn him Region 16 Pitcher of the Week honors.
SFCC sophomore Jake Lufft, batting third in most lineups, also leads the team with three saves. Kindle said Lufft projects to continue pitching in late-inning situations, but a host of relief work is available for an ailing staff.
“We’re a little injury-prone in it,” Kindle said of the bullpen. “So we need some guys to step up especially now that we’re starting region play.”
State Fair returns to Sedalia to host the MCC Wolves for a twin bill 1 p.m. Sunday. After a Tuesday, March 17, road trip to John Wood Community College in Quincy, Illinois, the Roadrunners begin a weekend series 1 p.m. Friday hosting St. Charles Community College at Liberty Park Stadium.
Kindle said consistent play is key to keeping pace in a league where the competitive floor has risen.
“The region seems to be up for the most part,” Kindle said. “So I don’t think there’s necessarily a team or teams that stand out toward the top.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @abagueros2.