STRIVE: Spring Sports Preview-Hillsboro 2009

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Surprising success in 2008 feeds expectations for 2009

 

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Hillsboro returns 11 letter-winners from last year?s 11-8 team. They are: front row (from left) Devin Funk, Aaron Bina, Jacob Edwards, Matt Martin, Chris Couts, Dylan Delk; back row, Tyler Ediger, Daniel Jost, Jacob Fish, Isaac Leihy, Ethan Frantz.

 

Unexpected success a year ago has raised expectations for this year?s Hillsboro High School baseball team.

Losing only one senior from a a relatively young and inexperienced team that went 11-8 last season, Trojan coach Phil Oelke feels his squad can improve on that record in 2009.

?I think we can be real competitive,? said Oelke, who has guided the program for eight of its 10 seasons. ?Our goal is to win the league championship.?

Heading the list of returning players are two first-team all-league selections from 2008, seniors Daniel Jost and Isaac Leihy.

After an off year as a sophomore in 2007, Jost returned to form in his junior season, leading the Trojans in most offensive categories: at-bats (63), batting average (.508), hits (32), runs batted in (21), runs scored (27) and walks (15).

Officially, Jost earned his spot on the Mid-Central Activities Association first team as a designated hitter, but he also received honorable mention at shortstop.

If that wasn?t enough, Jost pitched 10 innings for the Trojans last season with a 1-1 record and a 2.80 earned-run average. This season, Oelke hopes he has enough other pitchers to keep Jost at shortstop, where he can anchor the defense.

Leihy, meanwhile, proved to be the Trojans? most effective pitcher a year ago and received league honors for his work on the mound. Leihy compiled a 4-1 mark with an ERA of 4.01 as he easily led the staff with 36.67 innings.

Leihy was no slouch at the plate either, finishing with a .417 batting average, 25 hits and 18 RBI?all second-best team numbers behind Jost.

A third Trojan to receive league notice was Jacob Edwards, who earned honorable mention as an outfielder in his sophomore season. Edwards batted .279 with 17 hits and three RBI.

This season, as last season, Edwards will be counted on to contribute on the mound. Oelke has him pegged as a starter in his four-man rotation along with Leihy, junior Tyler Ediger and sophomore Dylan Delk.

Edwards threw 19 innings last season, compiling a 2-1 record with an ERA of 8.84 and 11 strikeouts.

Ediger was on the mound for 17.67 innings, posted a 2-0 record with an ERA of only 1.98. Delk threw 17.33 innings with an ERA of 6.06 on the way to 3-0 mark.

Candidates for middle relief and the occasional start are sophomores Matt Martin and Ben Bebermeyer, freshmen Luke Moore and Max Hedden. Martin pitched three innings in 2008 while Bebermeyer, Moore and Hedden are new to the program.

Also likely to see some innings are juniors Jacob Fish (2-1 record, 9.67 innings, 6.52 ERA in 2008) and Devin Funk (0-0, 5.33, 13.13) and sophomore Ethan Frantz (0-0, 4.33, 3.23).

As a team, the Trojans compiled an ERA of 5.18, giving up an average of 6.68 runs per game while scoring just under eight.

?Pitching is always a critical component in baseball,? Oelke said. ?Many of our young guys are bigger and stronger than they were a year ago. I look for us to compete well on the mound.?

A year of experience and physical development should also benefit the defensive support behind the those pitchers.

Sophomore Aaron Bina, who put in a full year at catcher as a freshman, is back to receive pitches for Hillsboro. He batted .302 with 19 hits and 11 RBI.

Beyond Jost at shortstop, Oelke has tentatively identified his top candidates for the rest of the infield.

At first base, Ediger (.288 average, 17 hits, 12 RBI) has the early nod with junior Chris Couts (.229, 11, 10) and Fish (.210, 13, 6) putting in time at second.

Oelke said third base is wide open with Delk (.182, 4, 3) and Bebermeyer as the early candidates.

Fish will see some time in the outfield along with Jacobs, but otherwise the opportunity is there for other players to step up, Oelke said. Hedden and Moore could be among the challengers.

Sophomore Chris Schafer could get some swings as a designated hitter and is a possible starter if needed.

Oelke has seven freshmen on his roster of 21 players. Several could contribute at the varsity level in their first year, but most will form the core of the junior varsity.

Last year?s success on the field may have been helped by some key injuries and personnel issues for some of the perennial league contenders Nickerson and Lyons. Oelke expects them to be stronger again this year after a below-par 2008.

He also expects the athleticism of Marion?s squad to make the Warriors challengers in the league. But Oelke thinks Hoi?sing?ton may be the early-season favorite in the MCAA.

?They lost their shortstop from last year but they bring back everybody else, and they were a good team a year ago,? he said.

Regional tournament assignments won?t be made until later in the season. Oelke said more Class 3A teams in this area may have a shot at making it to state this year with 2008 qualifiers Sacred Heart moving to 2A and Wichita Trinity jumping to 4A.

The key to Hillsboro?s chances, he said, is to stay healthy. Oelke expects this team to put runs on the board. How far the Trojans can go this spring may depend on the ability of his pitchers to slow the opposition.

HHS track returns quality athletes, but lower quantity

 

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Hillsboro coach Dennis Boldt has a core of athletes, including these state qualifiers and key seniors, to lead his program this spring. The girls pictured in the front row are (from left) Heidi Schroeder, Clara Ens, Shelby Koons, Dakota Kaufman and Tiffany Rooker. Standing behind them are Cody Blackketter, Ishamel Morris, Nathan Vogel, Matt Klenda, John Hein, Michael Klaassen and Nicholas Mueller.

 

Having lost 63 percent of the team?s scoring punch through graduation and physical ailments, don?t expect the Hillsboro boys? track team to come close it its second-place finish at the 2008 Class 3A state track meet.

But then again, few people would have projected that team to achieve that level of success at this time last year.

?I really thought it was a team that overachieved,? coach Dennis Boldt said. ?Not to say it was a surprise, because we definitely had the kids on the track to do the job. But things just have to fall just right (at state).

?I think we maximized our possibilities.?

That said, Boldt admitted it will be difficult for the Trojans to challenge for team titles this season.

?We?re going to depend a lot on our smaller meets again to give the kids experience,? he said. ?It is difficult to score in those big meets without the first and second places.?

The Trojans will have some high-placing individuals?just not as many as in some years. For the boys, junior Nathan Vogel and senior Ishmael Morris head the list.

Midway through last season Vogel discovered a previously undiscovered knack at the open 400 after focusing on the 800 his first two seasons.

?Nathan Vogel has got to be your headliner,? Boldt said. ?He?ll be concentrating on the 400 and 800, 4×800 and 4×400, depending on team members.?

Morris, meanwhile, excels at the sprints and should score points in the 100, 200 and possibly open 400, plus a relay or two.

?Ishmael will be one of our team leaders this year, one of our favorites to put up quite a few points,? Boldt said. ?He wants success, and he will do what it takes.

?The important thing with him is that we need to keep him healthy. He?s been a little injured up. We tried to take care of him last year and will do the same this year.?

If the Trojans have a team strength this season it?s middle distance. In addition to Vogel, Nicholas Mueller and Matt Klenda return from the 4×800 team that qualified for state.

The Trojans have four proven candidates to fill that fourth spot in the 4×800 as well as compete in the open races: Brandon McMillen, Matt Richert, Cody Blackketter and David Ratzloff.

?I think our 800 and 1,600 will be strong and some of those guys will run the 3,200,? Boldt said.

The outlook in field events is less promising, if only because of limited numbers. Seniors John Hein and Michael Klaassen will be throwing the discus and shot put and Mason McCarty will compete in the triple jump.

?We?ve seen Michael really mature (athletically) from last year; John Hein is obviously a good discus and shot-put thrower and we look for him to do great things,? Boldt said. ?Mason McCarty will be a good triple jumper for us.?

Senior David Loewen has undergone shoulder surgery since the end of the basketball season and is a doubtful participant in track this spring. Last season he scored 67 points for the team, primarily in discus and long jump.

Girls? team

Junior Dakota Kaufman, the girls? leading scorer in 2008 with 142.75 points, returns to lead the Trojans this spring. She was one of two Hillsboro girls to qualify for state last season and the only one to return.

At state, Kaufman placed second in the triple jump with a school-record leap of 36 feet, 11 inches, breaking the record she set last season by 3 inches. Kaufman also placed third in the long jump.

Senior Tiffany Rooker, the team?s third-leading scorer at 57.5, returns for the sprints and pole vault. She?s joined in the sprints by classmate Shelby Koons, who was fourth on the team in points with 21.75.

Sophomore Bethany Hawkinson returns in the sprints as well, giving the Trojans the possibility for a competitive 4×100 team.

Boldt said senior Heidi Schroeder should score in the middle distances, and has high hopes for a similar result from freshman Callie Serene. Senior Clara Ens will add depth in middle distance and distance.

?We could have a good 4×800,? Boldt said. ?We?ll have to see what the kids are interested in.?

Additional challenges

With 30 athletes for the boys? and girls? teams, numbers are down slightly, which is another limiting factor for team impact, especially in the smaller Central Kansas Track League meets.

Boldt said having five spring sports to choose from, being the third sports season of the school year, plus a general decline in enrollment has had an impact on the pool of athletes.

?The spring coaches, although we are very excited about our own sports and very protective of them, we do understand that kids do go out for other spring sports,? Boldt said. ?And I do understand that after football and volleyball season, and basketball and wrestling season, that kids are tired.

?And we?re just getting smaller.?

Even though the Trojans may not have the quite the impact in track and field that they?ve had in the recent past, they will make their mark.

?As far as team scoring, I think we will struggle to gain the 60-point level at the big meets,? he said. ?By no means count us out. We will be making an impact on the overall scores because we have individuals and relay teams that are scoring well and pushing other teams down.?

In the Mid-Central Activities Association, Boldt looks for Sterling to be the early-season pick for the boys? title and Marion for the girls? championship.

Another challenge facing the program this year is not having a home track on which to train or compete. Construction is in full swing on the new stadium and track-and-field facility being built in partnership with Tabor College.

As a result, the team will practice at a combination of makeshift sites: the high school gymnasium, old Jefferson Field, and the middle-school football field and playground area at the elementary school.

?The kids are excited, particulars the distance runners, that they?re not running on that (old Tabor) track,? Boldt said. ?It was a very poor facility to run on and distance runners ran on it very little. We did a lot of work on the grass and the dirt road behind Tabor track (last season). We tried to keep people off that track as much as possible.?

The biggest consequence will be not having a true home track meet again this spring. The James Thomas Invitational was moved already last year to Bethel College because of the condition of the old track, and will be there again this year.

Assisting Boldt this year with middle-school and high school programs are coaches Jim Robb, Nathan Hiebert, Mike Jilka, Don Penner and Donya Anderson.

Hillsboro will open its season April 7 with a five-team CTKL meet at Halstead.

Kunantaev will drive state hopes for Trojan golf team

 

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HHS golf coach Scott O?Hare has four returning letter-winners at the core of his 2009 team. Pictured are (from left) Jake Kenney, Daniel Kunantaev, Daniel Dick and Jared King.

 

With one of the premeier golfers in Class 3A coming back, plus a year of varsity experience under the belt of three other returning athletes, the Hillsboro High School golf team could compete for some tournament hardware this season, according to coach Scott O?Hare.

The Trojans lost Justin Kent, the other half of last season?s potent 1-2 punch, to graduation. But junior Daniel Kunantaev will be back to challenge for a state individual title.

As a sophomore last spring, Kunantaev tied for the second-best score at the Class 3A tournament, but was awarded third place on a tie-breaker.

?Daniel has proven himself to be one of the best in the state,? O?Hare said. ?We hope to build around him with three returning varsity players from last year, and form a competitive four-man team.

?Actually, I think we have the potential to have more depth this year than we did last year,? he added.

The three varsity veterans returning for those three open spots are senior Jake Kenney and juniors Daniel Dick and Jared King.

?All three of those guys have been on the course a lot (in the off-season),? O?Hare said.

In addition to more experience, O?Hare said the threesome come in physically stronger than they were a year ago. He hopes that will help them narrow the gap between the No. 1 score, likely from Kunantaev, and the No. 4 score, which will improve the team total.

Two other juniors could play into the varsity mix. Evan Just went out as a freshman but sat out last year, while Taylor Loewen is competing for the first time.

O?Hare also has eight underclassmen on this year?s squad, including sophomores Landon Herbel and Daniel Kenney, and freshmen Kyler Borg, Devin Dick, Thane Hurst, Ben Loewen, Rachel McKenzie and Evan Wienck.

Out of that group, Dick and Hurst could compete for a varsity spot this season, O?Hare said.

The Trojans likely will face stiff competition at the league tournament at Marion from perennial powers Wichita Collegiate and Hesston, according to O?Hare. He said Marion should be near the top with Hillsboro among the pack of challengers after that.

The Trojan junior varsity will be the first to hit the links competitively with a tournament at Lyons April 6. The following day, varsity teams will claim the course for their own tournament.

Hillsboro will host its home invitational two days later on Thursday, April 9. Tee-off is set for 2 p.m.

The sixth annual Marion County Invitational, hosted jointly by Hillsboro and Marion, will be May 8.

A home junior-varsity tournament is scheduled for May 1.

HHS softball looks to frosh to fill huge graduation loss

 

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Hillsboro returns three letter-winners and one senior with experience from last year?s 14-8 squad. Pictured from left are Taylor Nikkel, Tara Heinrichs, Aubrey Meier and Briana Loewen.

 

Turnover in personnel is a fact of life in high school sports as atheltes continually cycle through a program in four years or less.

But few turnovers are as extreme as the one facing Hillsboro High School softball coach Stephanie Sinclair this spring.

In her fourth year as head coach, Sinclair is dealing with the loss of eight seniors who dominated the Trojan lineup for the past three seasons. A ninth player with significant experience from last season may or may not return this season.

Helping to fill that huge void is a freshman class that contains six players with considerable summer softball experience. But Sinclair knows there?s no substitute for on-field experience at the high-school level.

?I kind of talk with the girls about our softball age,? Sinclair said. ?We?re a little young, and we?re going to have to grow up faster than freshman normally have to.?

Helping with that process are three returning letter-winners from last year?s 14-8 team.

Junior Bri Loewen had the second-most at-bats (73) and hits (23) on that squad, finishing with a .315 batting average, 21 runs scored and 10 runs batted in as a sophomore.

With her speed and glove, Taylor Nikkel earned a spot in the outfield as a freshman last season. At the plate she hit .380 with 19 hits in 50 at bats. She scored 16 runs and drove in 11 runs.

Tara Heinrichs went to the plate 28 times as a sophomore and batted .179 with five hits.

This season, Sinclair is projecting Loewen to move from second base to catcher. Nikkel will patrol center field, and Hein?richs likely will see time at third or first base.

It appears the remaining holes in the lineup will be filled with freshmen, at this point.

Sinclair does have two seniors on her roster, Candace Ediger and Jessica Elliott, and a junior, Andrea Bartel. But they have no previous experience with the program.

Similarly, junior Austin Jost moved in from Moundridge and sophomore Aubrey Meier saw very limited varsity action last season as a freshman.

Sinclair?s squad has had limited practice time because of an extended girls? basketball season followed by spring break. But several members of Sinclair?s freshman class have emerged as strong candidates for starting varsity roles.

Courtney Weber will likely be the Trojans? primary pitcher, though she can also play in the infield or outfield.

?She comes in as good (a pitcher) as anyone we?ve had as a freshman,? Sinclair said. ?Endurance is the question for her.?

Sinclair said she?s fortunate to have Weber available at all after she was diagnosed last summer with a medical condition that appeared to threaten her athletic future. Upon closer examination by a specialist earlier this year, Weber was cleared to play.

?It was a nice surprise,? Sinclair said.

If the Trojans need a change of pace on the mound, the ball could go to another freshman, Franny Gottsch.

?They?re very different pitchers,? Sinclair said. ?Franny?s not as quick but can throw a nice change-up. She could really mess people up with timing.?

Likely to trade time with Heinrichs at first or third is freshman Sammy Koons. Gottsch and fellow freshman Krista Reimer are leading candidates at second base and freshman Stephanie Sanders is penciled in at shortstop.

Nikkel and freshman Amy Bartel are frontrunners for spots in the outfield with the third opening still up for grabs.

?Taylor and Amy together are extremely fast, which is not what we?ve ever had (in the outfield),? Sinclair said. ?If you look at Amy, you wouldn?t think she?s fast, but she covers a lot of ground out there.

?I?m excited about that.?

With so much inexperience and so many question marks, Sinclair is looking to the coming season with hopeful but realistic expectations.

?I would be happy with these kids if they go .500,? she said.

Sinclair was an assistant coach when Hillsboro started its softball program in spring 1998. Given the inexperience on this year?s squad, she sees similarities between the two teams.

?We were tickled when that first group came in at .500,? she said. ?We?re kind of back to that place because we don?t have a lot of carryover.?

Sinclair sees Nickerson and Haven as the strongest two teams in the league. Halstead, led by its NCAA Division I prospect at shortstop, Stephanie Drake, should be strong as well.

The rest of the league appears to be a toss-up. Ellin?wood is launching a softball program this spring and is a complete unknown.

The Trojans open their season Tuesday, April 7, at Sterling. After playing at Wichita Collegiate April 9, Hillsboro will make its home debut April 14 against Hoisington.

Ellinwood?s entry into the league has created a scheduling oddity: The Trojans will not play their intra-county rivals from Marion during the regular season.

Regional tournament assignments will be made later in the season.

Four letter-winners will form nucleus for Trojan tennis

 

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Six seniors and returning letter-winners will take the lead for HHS tennis coach Stuart Holmes this season. Pictured are: (from left) Joe Fisher, Jarod Hamm, Ben Gottsch, Clay Shewey, Taylor Hagen and Nolan Dirks. Shewey is the lone member of the team with state-tournament experience.

 

Hillsboro High School boys? tennis coach Stuart Holmes returns four letter-winners from last season?s team.

Leading the team will be senior Clay Shewey, who qualified for state as a sophomore but came up one victory short of qualifying last spring.

Also returning are senior Nolan Dirks, junior Taylor Hagen and sophomore Jarod Hamm. Hagen and Hamm competed for Hillsboro at regionals in doubles competition, each with a different partner.

?The guys see focused and really looking forward to the season,? coach Stuart Holmes said. ?We have a solid group of juniors and senrios, as well as some promising young players.

?As our guys dedicate themselves to getting better, they will find the satisfaction that goes with working hard as well as increased measure of success.?

Holmes has 10 athletes on this year?s squad. They include seniors Joe Fisher and Ben Gottsch, juniors Sam Bookless and Jonathan King and freshmen Zach Carey and Grant Shewey.

?Everyday we will be looking to improve in practice and make progress thrtough the season,? Holmes said. ?Tennis provides a great opportunity to challenge tyourself mentally as well as physically, and we want to grow in both areas each day whether at practice or in competition.?

Holmes said it?s too early to know which players will be filling the two singles and four doubles spots on the varsity squad when the team opens competition tomorrow (April 2) at Conway Springs.

?If course, that (lineup) can change throughout the year,? he said.

As usual, the Trojans will play host to two invitationals this season. The Hillsboro Invitational will be April 9m beginning at 3 p.m.

The Trojan Invitational is scheduled for April 21 with a 3 p.m. start time.

This year?s league meet will be played at Hesston on May 4, Regional assignments will be made later in the year.

Last season, Hillsboro placed fifth in the eight-team Mid-Central Activities Association tournament field behind Wichita Collegiate, Smoky Valley, Hesston and Sterling

Shewey placed fifth in No. 1 singles.

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