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By: Corey Stott
MEMPHIS, Mo.- 3/19/23- “We’re deep!” Those where the first words out of the mouth of Scotland County head baseball coach Rod Sears when I asked him about his roster for the upcoming 2023 season.
The baseball Tigers graduated just two seniors last season, Corbyn Spurgeon and Xavier Lucas. This year’s squad features five seniors in Owen Triplett, Hunter Sapp, Ian Wilson, Lucas Durflinger and Riley Small. Hugh Baker, Elias Hatfield and Payton Frederick represent the three juniors on the team.
Those upperclassmen are complemented by an outstanding crop of six sophomores and three freshmen. Sears said that he has “a lot of kids fighting for positions.”
Owen Triplett and Ian Wilson were voted captains for this year’s team by their peers. Sears said that he expects them to carry the brunt of the team leadership this season. “Triplett will be a pretty good ace for us,” Sears said. “Wilson will be a force for us behind the plate, at the plate, and on the bump.”
The Tigers will also expect big things out of 2022 All-District selection Elias Hatfield. “We’re going to bounce him back out to the outfield this season after having to have him in the infield last season,” Sears said. Sophomore Vince Dale will be a player to watch this season according to Sears. “Vince will make an impact for us both hitting and pitching,” he said.
Sears is excited not just about his returning experience with his upperclassmen, but his bountiful crop of talented youngsters as well. “We have a lot of freshmen from last year that will be making an impact,” Sears said. He specifically mentioned Owen Brown as a player that, in Sears’ words, “came out of nowhere last season” as a sophomore that will be part of the equation.
When asked where the bar is set for this season’s expectations, Sears didn’t hesitate. “I think the kids know the expectation,” he said. “Every year we go out there and chase the conference and district championship.” He added, “Last year we lost a district championship 2-0 to the number three team in the state. I think that set the bar for this year.”
Following that loss, the team has focused on two things in the offseason. “Pitching and having better at-bats,” Sears answered. “Last year I think we ran into situations where we weren’t deep enough in our pitching rotation. We’ve addressed that for this season,” he said. “I also think last year we didn’t understand what a quality at-bat was,” he added. “We’ve got to recognize and understand situations, just knowing the game. We’ve talked a lot about being less of a “me” player and more of a team player… just trying to break some old habits.”
Sears said that he expects the Lewis and Clark Conference field to be highly competitive. “Everyone’s returning everyone,” he said with a wry grin. He pointed at three teams he expects to set the pace. “Salisbury returns a stud group that won it their sophomore year and will be seniors this season,” he said. “Harrisburg is always sound and Knox County has a lot of returners as well. It’s gonna be a real meat-grinder,” he added.
Sears said that this team has shown a real work ethic. “They show up early and stay late,” Sears said. That work will finally have a chance to pay off when the Tigers open up the 2023 campaign with a pair of non-conference games with Highland and Canton, both at home. The following week they will open conference play at Schuyler County.