The Missouri State High School Activities Association added a fifth classification for baseball this year, and southwest Missouri thanked it kindly, by sending a representative to state in each class.
Hartville won the Class 2 state title, and had its ace Drew Ince make the American Family Insurance All-Ozarks Baseball team, which was selected by the News-Leader sports staff with input from area coaches.
In addition, Catholic earned a second-place finish in Class 3, Rogersville (Class 4) and Willard (Class 5) were third, and Dadeville took fourth in Class 1.
This year’s All-Ozarks Baseball team features four repeat selections: Drew Bridges of Carthage, Nixa’s JD Payne, Clever’s Chance Wolfe and Rogersville’s Evan Gruener.
— Steve Koehler, for the News-Leader
This was the right-hander’s first year in the starting rotation, having been in the bullpen the past two years. His 9-1 record made him one of the best pitchers in southwest Missouri. “He was a competitor, an outstanding leader on the mound. He did everything,” Willard coach Scott McGee said.
Stats: 9-1, 1.78 ERA, 73 strikeouts, 24 walks, 71 innings
The ace of the staff, King was the king on the mound. Using a fiery fastball and a moving curveball, he led his team to a third-place finish at state. “He’s a quiet guy. He just leads by example. He just does his job,” Rogersville coach Casey Ledl said.
Stats: 9-2, 2.71 ERA, 54 strikeouts, 21 walks, 59.1 innings
The senior starter has been a varsity player for four years. He’s seen the bad times when the team went winless for his entire freshman season and the good times like this year in winning the state championship. He saved the semifinal game and pitched seven innings in the championship game. “He’s a warrior on the mound. He battles no matter what,” Hartville coach Joe Garrison said.
Stats: 10-1, 2.19 ERA, 69 strikeouts, 28 walks, 73.2 innings
After a strong season last year as a reliever, Tipton moved to a starting role and was outstanding, helping lead his Fightin’ Irish to a 23-5 record and a trip to the Class 3 state championship game. “He’s a velocity guy pitching in the low 80s. He has a decent slider. He did a good job,” Catholic coach Jason Daugherty said.
Stats: 7-1, 1.17 ERA, 54 strikeouts, 13 walks, 1 save, 54 innings
The shortstop started four years for the Tigers. A student of the game, he knew a lot about how the game was played in leading his team to a 21-2 record and two tournament titles. “He worked his tail off. He had a great work ethic and good skills. He was the big dog in a good group of seniors,” Carthage coach Mike Godfrey said.
Stats: .522 batting average, 33 runs, 8 home runs, 35 RBIs
College: Missouri State
The senior shortstop was a four-year starter. A big hitter for Billings, he was a consistent player over his career. “He was a great leader on the field. He was the heart of the batting order who did what it took and found a way to win. He pushed others to the best of their abilities,” Billings coach Allen Stolte said.
Stats: .500 batting average, 31 hits, 11 home runs, 33 RBIs, 24 stolen bases
College: Ozarks Technical Community College
After being the team’s designated hitter as a freshman and sophomore, Kendrick took over at first base. He was the No. 4 hitter all four years. “He’s a great kid, a cage rat, always working on his swing. He took his responsibility seriously. He knew it was a big job being in the four hole,” Parkview coach John Thompson said.
Stats: .452 batting average, 20 runs, 28 hits, 7 home runs, 26 RBIs
The senior has had to cope with injuries for a year but continued to thrive on the field. A wrist injury last summer has been nagging him. “J.D. been one of our talented players and that makes him the cornerstone of the program. He’s one of those students of the game. He gets it. He’s not afraid to make adjustments not only from game to game but pitch to pitch,” Nixa coach Howard Greenwood said.
Stats: .370 batting average, 14 runs, 27 hits, 3 home runs, 15 RBIs
College: Rogers State (Okla.) University
A four-year starter, Wolfe was the team’s leader behind the plate. A two-time Southwest Central League MVP, he was a threat on offense and defense. This year, he broke five state offensive records. “His abilities changed the opponent’s offensive plans. He could pick you off at first or second. He’s one of the best baseball players I’ve ever coached,” Clever coach Justin Snider said.
Stats: .630 batting average, 40 runs, 63 hits, 7 home runs, 49 RBIs
College: Southwest Baptist University
The senior dedicated his final year to remaking his body and it resulted in an outstanding season that led to his team winning a share of the Ozark Conference title. Gaining speed with his weight loss thanks to off-season workouts, Blount became one of the best hitters and on-base threats in the area. “He dedicated himself to improving his hitting skills and the results show the wisdom of doing that sort of thing,” Glendale coach Mike Snodgrass said.
Stats: .468 batting average, 23 runs, 37 hits, 24 RBIs, 20 stolen bases
The senior center fielder was the leader of his team and gave his teammates the push they needed throughout the season. “He was everything we hoped he would be. A lot of the younger kids looked up to him. He’s a good all-around player,” Ledl said.
Stats: .397 batting average, 29 hits, 5 home runs, 31 RBIs, 12 stolen bases
An offensive and defensive weapon for the Tigers, Presley has improved his skills from year to year, going from just three hits as a sophomore to hitting over .400 this season. “Keaton was instrumental to our success. He was very good offensively and defensively, and is the fastest player that I have coached. He improved tremendously the past year,” McGee said.
Stats: .441 batting average, 37 runs, 26 RBIs, 25 stolen bases
The senior started out at shortstop but moved to the outfield later and has played both center and right fields with perfection. “He’s a great outfielder with a great arm. He’s an athlete who played quarterback. He’s a great leader and the smartest kid on the team academically,” Thompson said.
Stats: .381 batting average, 30 runs, 24 hits, five home runs, 19 RBI
College: Missouri State
A versatile player, Kaufman was outstanding as a pitcher and third baseman. He was an all-state pick by the coaches’ association as utility player, too. “He has a good glove and he’s always a threat at the plate. He was our No. 1 pitcher, a big-game pitcher. He wanted the ball in big games,” Forsyth coach Jim Julian said.
Stats: 8-1 record, 2.33 ERA, 52 strikeouts, 6 walks; .543 batting average, two home runs, 27 RBI