Sporting WCA

Varsity Baseball Preview

Most wins in Missouri baseball history (34), a player drafted to play professional baseball, and 3rd place state finish… and this year’s baseball Cats expect to be better?

“Well not exactly,” said senior 3rd baseman Kevin Graham. “But we do expect to grab a couple more wins this year, and maybe an even better win percentage.”

Last year was a dream season for the baseball team. But it ended in a nightmare with a loss to arch-rival Lutheran South in the State Semifinals. This year the team is reloaded and ready for vengeance. New head coach Dan Petke may have put it best, “We have some unfinished business to take care of.”

There is no doubt that this years Cats have their minds fixated on that State Championship trophy, their biggest challenge is going to be focusing on the regular season games. The season layout is very interesting for the Cats. For the first time in 17 years the season will begin in St. Louis rather than Vero Beach, Florida. The first six games will take place in the area before the team flies down for the cherished Florida trip. The first two games are on Saturday March 17th, before playing 4 straight games at each of the Parkway’s. This will no doubt be the biggest test of the season for the Cats.

“We are throwing our guys, particularly the pitcher’s into the fire in that first week” said Graham. “If we can make it through that first week unscathed we just may have a chance to make it through the season undefeated.”

This is a bold statement from Graham, especially in the game of baseball were so much is left to chance and the margin of error is small. But he certainly has reason to make this claim. The team last year was perfect except for a loss to Luke Mann of Vianney (a Mizzou commit pitcher who may be taken in the top 10 rounds of the MLB draft this year), and that semifinal loss. The team has lost 1 game in Florida in 23 years, granted the team is traveling a different week this year and the competition is promised to be tougher. After that, the team is looking at a particular weak Metro League this year, a league they went undefeated against last season.

“An undefeated baseball team is almost unheard of, and obviously we can’t expect that, but it’s the goal. And I think we have the guy’s to get it done” said Graham.

The Wildcats do certainly appear to have the personnel. With 5 college baseball commits on the team, 2 of which are headed for the power 5, the team is a lot stronger than most high school clubs. Offensively, the team will be led by Graham: an Ole Miss commit with a big bat, Jimmy Obertop: an excellent defensive catcher who led the team in Batting Average last year. Jimmy committed to play at the University of Michigan this fall. Dom Cusumano, a middle infielder who will be taking his talents to Indiana State at the conclusion of the year, will also be a leader for the Cats this year as he is one of the 2 players earning his 3rd Varsity baseball letter.

Defensively there are a couple question marks for the Cats. On the mound, their two top pitchers graduated last year, one is now in the Philadelphia Phillies organization and the other is continuing to pitch at Bucknell. Look for junior Zach Braiser and senior Clayton Guzdial to step in and take some of those innings that are leftover from last year. Both absolutely have the stuff to get the job done, it is just about execution. The shortstop and first base positions were both occupied by D1 committed seniors last year, and in preseason practices coach Petke will be looking for someone to step in and fill-in those gaping holes left in by last years team.

One newcomer to watch will be the last of the Matheny boys: Missouri State commited outfielder Blaise Matheny. Blaise made the trip to Florida last year with the team but ended up returning to JV when the team got back in town. But Blaise has had a fantastic offseason sharpening his skills and looks to be the X- Factor for the team this year.

Overall, expectations are through the roof for the baseball team this year. This team has one goal: State Championship or bust.