Marion enters the 2013 baseball season having just missed qualifying for the state tournament last spring.
The Warriors finished second in the Heart of America League with a 10-2 record and were 17-6 overall. They ended the season as regional runners-up after a 3-0 loss to Sacred Heart.
Losing only four players to graduation the past two years, third-year coach Roger Schroeder said the experience on his roster will lead to good things this season.
“We return basically our entire roster,” he said. “We’ve got some things to improve on of course, but we’re going to be in good shape.”
Pitching and catching
The Warriors return 100 percent of their pitching staff and will look to the mound to fuel their success.
Two all-league selections will pave the way: senior Ethan Hett, a first-team selection last year, and junior Grif Case, a second-team pick.
“Those guys have led our team in innings the last two years,” Schroeder said. “Grif was second on our team as a freshman in innings; Ethan, as a sophomore, led our team, and then last year they were the leaders again.
“They’re going to be the two guys that we lean on a lot.”
Seniors Austin Pedersen and Jacob Harper and junior Taylor Heidebrecht are also expected to contribute on the mound.
“We’ll interchange guys,” Schroeder said. “We’ll use guys that start on Tuesday out of the bullpen on Friday.
“We use them all in different roles. They’re all going to see a lot of time.”
New to the mound is junior Luke Steele, who pitched in summer ball.
Schroeder recognizes the value of having experience on the mound.
“At the 3A level, to have six arms like that, it’s pretty rare,” he said. “I know we’ll play some teams that, during Game 1 of a doubleheader, they’ll throw out two or three really good arms, and then they look like a different team when they come out because they just run out of options.”
Behind the plate, the Warriors will look to juniors Caleb Williams and Steele.
“They’re the two that will share duties back there, and we’ll rotate them around,” Schroeder said. “Over the last two years, they’ve built an understanding with certain pitchers on our team.”
Heidebrecht, a first-team all-league outfielder last year, will move to first base this year.
“He’s kind of split some time the last couple years with one of our recently graduated seniors, and so he’s going to move over there full-time,” Schroeder said. “We still might use him in the outfield from time to time. We’re going to use him wherever he can help us.”
Heidebrecht also is expected to be a key hitter.
“(Taylor) led our team in a majority of our offensive categories,” Schroeder said. “He’ll hit leadoff for us. He can run. He’s our catalyst, I guess you could say. ”
Hett, when not on the mound, will split second-base duties with junior Zach Robson.
Junior Dylan Seacat, a second-team all-league selection, will take the lead at shortstop.
“(Dylan is a) very slick fielding shortstop,” Schroeder said. “(He) understands the game very well, and he’s a kid that can handle the bat—he can bunt, he can hit and run. He’s a line-drive hitter who can spray the ball all over the field.
“He’s a very intelligent player, understands the situational aspect of the game, and he has the physical tools to play shortstop at a high level.”
Schroeder is looking at several candidates at third base, including Hett, Steele, Williams and Harper.
“We’re going to have kind of a revolving door at third base,” he said. “We haven’t had one guy that’s really settled in over there, but we’ve got a lot of kids capable of doing it.”
Warriors expected to see time in the outfield include Pedersen—most likely in center—Case, Harper and Heidebrecht, Schroeder said.
Junior Zac Lewman and sophomores Bret Voth and Jacob Baldwin may also play there.
“Again, it’s a revolving door of guys that could play,” Schroeder said. “It’s just going to be who produces.”
The Warrior roster includes a number of younger players who will be vying for playing time.
“They’re going to be nipping at these guys’ heels,” Schroeder said. “Nobody’s job is really safe. Even though our numbers are small, we’ve got a lot of quality players.”
Baldwin and Voth bring talent to the diamond.
“Both of them can throw,” Schroeder said. “Jacob’s left-handed. We don’t have any left-handed pitchers, so we’re trying to develop him.
“Bret can play anywhere on the diamond, basically. That’s a big help when we get late in games to make substitutions.”
Lewman could be another contributor.
“Zac’s going to be a junior this year and has played sparingly the last two years,” Schroeder said. “But he’s gotten some time, and he’s another kid—big strong athlete—that is going to try to scratch his way on the field.”
Schroeder said he’d start all 14 of those players if he could.
“There’s going to be some kids who don’t get in and don’t get as much time as the others, but they’re just as important to our success because they’re going to be asked to fill in at some point and deliver a big at-bat late in a game.”
With so many returning players, Schroeder is looking for an even better season in 2013.In two years, Marion has achieved a 28-16 record.
“Same group of kids, they’re just a year older, a year stronger,” Schroeder said. “It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Pairing depth on the mound with tough defense will be key.
“I always tell them, ‘You can score as many runs as you want, but you’ve got to keep people from scoring, too,’” Schroeder said. “We focus more on the defensive side of things with our arms and our gloves, and it’s been OK so far.”
With 18 players on this year’s roster, depth may be a problem.
“We’ve got 20 varsity games scheduled; it makes it tight with only 18 kids,” Schroeder said. “We’re going to do the best we can to get some younger kids some at-bats through practice and through some JV games.”
In spite of the challenges, Schroeder expects to contend for a league title. Other contenders include defending champion Sedgwick, Inman and Moundridge.
“Some of the other teams were young last year, so we’ll see how some of their kids develop,” Schroeder said of additional league contenders.
Schroeder is confident of his team’s abilities.
“It’s a tough schedule, and we play in a tough league, but there’s nobody we can’t compete with.”
Marion was scheduled to open its season March 26 at against Herington and will follow with a contest at Little River April 2.