Fruechting also will play first base. Coach Shawn Craft said Fruechting has improved both his fielding and hitting skills.
“With a little more experience, the sophomores know what to expect,” Craft said. “We should be pretty strong defensively because the whole outfield is returning, along with shortstop, third base and first base.”
Jeffrey will stand in the gap at shortstop, with fellow senior Zan Fine set to defend third base.
“This will be Zan’s second year starting—third if you count the end of his sophomore year,” Craft said. “He can cover ground at third base and he thinks ahead. And he’s a good leader, pushing the freshmen along and helping them out. He’s a good team member.”
Marion also has a pair of seniors, Chase Carlson and Logan Richmond, with the skills required to step in at multiple positions.
Craft said Carlson, who returns to the team after golfing as a junior, may have the upper hand in the battle to play right field. But Richmond and returning starter Adam Maag are on the short list of candidates.
Wil Case (left) and Isaac Hett (center) are set to return to the outfield positions they occupied a year ago. Case, Hett and Maag are sophomores.
“Wil reads the ball well, and he makes the catch coming forward, just like you’re supposed to do,” Craft said. “All our outfielders are good tracking the ball and have speed. They’re athletes out there.
“Isaac can get to a lot of balls other guys can’t get to, and he made a number of impressive catches last year,” Craft said. “He did pretty good for a freshman, and having his speed out there helps narrow the gaps.”
Both Carlson and Richmond are also viable options for Craft to use at second base, and sophomore Colton Olson may also spend some time at that spot.
“We’ve got three options to try and fill the hole at second base,” Craft said. “That competition will be good for us.”
Two of that trio are also vying for time at catcher, with freshman Matt Sprowls also looking to play behind the plate.
And then there is Jeffrey.
“This will be Calvin’s third year starting at short,” Craft said. “He’s a senior who has been out every year, who works hard and has experience. He’s a smart, smart player. He knows where the ball is going to go before it goes there.
“The competitive attitude he brings—he wants to win, and he wants everyone to do things right—is important leadership,” he added. “The team is going to go where he goes.”
Craft’s words are high praise for the player who carries so many different roles for the team.
“You want your shortstop to be that guy who does a little of everything,” Craft said. “It might be the most important position.”
Jeffrey, a switch hitter, will lead off after posting gaudy numbers a season ago.
“He hit .600 last year—4-for-6 from the left-hand side,” Craft said.
Hitting the ball with authority has been easy for the Warriors in recent seasons, and the position battles at right field and second base will likely be decided at the plate.
“They’re all pretty close fielding-wise, so I’ll decide who to put out there based on who is swinging the bat well,” Craft said. “We’ve been down for a couple years batting, but we improved a lot last year and we’ll hope to keep improving this year.”
Craft said Case and Richmond are front runners to hit in the top of the order, behind Jeffrey and in front of Fruechting.
“Nothing is set in stone yet, but Carlson, Fine and Hett will probably be in some order in the 5-7 spots,” Craft said.
Pitching might be a struggle this season, but is certainly an area ripe with opportunity for the players who are willing to put in the required effort.
“Brian is the No. 1 guy,” Craft said. “He works at it year-round.”
Freuchting, Jeffrey and Mitch Ragland are the three hurlers listed on the Warrior roster. Craft also will turn to Fine, Case and freshman Cory Seacat when the situation calls for it.
Beyond the additional experience the Warriors gained playing with summer league teams, they’ve gained a degree of cohesiveness and chemistry.
“We’re looking forward to playing together more as a team,” Craft said. “I’ve already noticed in practice that the guys have been bonding and supporting each other more, and there hasn’t been much negativity.
“Everybody has a good feeling about this season, I think.”
Craft said the team expects to post a stronger win-loss record than last year’s 1-17 tally.
“Every game is important for our confidence,” Craft said. “A good start will help us get the younger guys going strong through the rest of the season.”
Marion opens its season April 1 at Smoky Valley.