For most high school baseball teams in and around Springfield, the 2015 season features all the ups and downs of a hike through the Mark Twain National Forest.
With bumps in the road ranging from concussions to bruised egos — and for one team an actual ramble through the Mark Twain National Forest — it’s been a season of struggle for many clubs. Great expectations turned to a grind for even top teams.
Rogersville, a Class 4 playoff semifinalist in 2014, sits three games above .500 with senior left-hander Jacob Schlesener sporting a 3-0 record and a 92-mile-per-hour fastball. When Schlesener isn’t pitching, Rogersville is 5-5.
“Obviously 8-5 is not where we thought we’d be, but we started 0-4. We played terrible baseball the first week and a half,” coach Casey Ledl said. “But then we’re pretty excited, we won eight of our last nine.”
Springfield’s baseball coaches had a chance to share their stories of struggle Monday at a Springfield Lead-off Club luncheon.
A 12-1 loss to Bolivar looks like a blowout on its face for the Central Bulldogs, but coach Bill Shoemaker says the score is deceiving. The Bulldogs put runners on base, but Bolivar came up big in the infield.
“In the Bolivar game they get 17 hits, we get 11. They get 12 runs, we get one. We hit into five double plays,” Shoemaker said.
Like Central, the Hillcrest Hornets and Ryan Schaffitzel are searching for a victory. Hillcrest suffered losses to Ozark, Waynesville and Green County Tech of Paragould, Arkansas last week.
Senior Adam Barton serves as a silver lining with his .440 batting average.
“I keep saying we’re close and we’re trying to learn how to win a game, and once we do that I think things will turn,” Schaffitzel said.
The 2-5 New Covenant Academy team ran into trouble before a game in Bradleyville began and faced the possibility of having to forfeit.
“We left at 2:40 and arrived at 4:40 for a 4:30 p.m. game,” coach John Hartley said, explaining that a first-time bus driver was using a “first-time GPS.”
“We turned off of Highway 125 onto Shepherd’s Lane, and he said, ‘We’ve got eight more miles up over this rise,’ and we went over the rise and it turned into a dirt road,” Hartley said.
The Warriors eventually made it to their game and junior pitcher Matt Searson allowed one hit in five innings and New Covenant won 11-0 for the first victory in the young history of its baseball program.
Despite a 9-1 loss at Branson, Glendale skipper Mike Snodgrass believed senior Alex Austin pitched well, it was the eight other men on the diamond that broke down.
“We gave up four hits and got beat 9-1, and so I was pretty disappointed in that game,” Snodgrass said. “We got four hits, they got four hits, but they made one error and we made seven.”
Glendale took a weekend trip to Claremore, Oklahoma, where it suffered losses to Skiatook and Collinsville before beating Claremore Sequoyah 9-4 and improved to 7-9.
Parkview failed to score in shutout losses to Lebanon and Nixa. Lebanon knocked the Vikings around 9-0. Assistant coach Bret Gallion says junior Coltin Smith was scheduled to start a game with Lebanon, but got sick and missed his start.
“Going in we had the scouting report that (Lebanon’s) No. 3 and 4 hole could hit, but everybody else was struggling, and it seemed like everybody could hit that day,” Gallion said. “They seemed to take advantage of every small error or dropped ball that we had.”
A 7-0 loss to Nixa followed the next day. The Vikings are optimistic for the returns of senior third baseman Zach Ralph from a concussion and senior utility infielder Tanner James from offseason surgery.
Lebanon also got the best of Kickapoo 8-4. The Chiefs aren’t necessarily struggling to win games, but coach Jason Howser wants to see his team perform better in practice.
“I think we think we’re a little bit better than we are, and what we are is 8-3 right now, that’s it,” Howser said.
Senior shortstop Danny Crews leads Kickapoo in hitting with a .475 batting average.
The Springfield Lead-off Club meets Mondays at noon at Coyote’s Sports Café, 1743 S. Glenstone Ave. Cost for lunch and brief presentations from Springfield high school and college baseball coaches is $10.