Led by fourth-year head coach Roger Schroeder, the Warriors want to make a return trip to the Class 3A state tournament, having finished second in Heart of America league play a year ago with a 7-3 record.
Last year, Marion won the Hillsboro regional tournament with a 9-8 win over Halstead. At state, the Warriors lost to Silver Lake in the first round, to finish with a 16-6 record.
Schroeder said this year?s lineup is still to be determined, but Marion returns an experienced group of athletes and will have nine seniors on the roster, including two all-state honorees in seniors Taylor Heidebrecht and Grif Case.
Heidebrecht, who pitched and played first base, received second-team all-state honors. He also was a first team all-league selection a year ago.
Over 21 games last season, Heidebrecht hit .481 with an on-base percentage of .517.
Heidebrecht?s pitching was limited last year because of a football injury. After throwing 15 or 20 innings his sophomore year, he pitched 72?3 innings last season with an ERA of 4.57.
?If we can get him back to where he was as a sophomore?he threw well for us in spots, and so hopefully as a senior now he can do it again.?
Case, an outfielder and pitcher, also received second team all-state honors and was a first team all-league selection.
Last season, he batted .441 over 21 games with an on-base percentage of .532.
On the mound, Case went 3-2 with more than 32 innings pitched and an ERA of 2.62. He struck out 27 batters.
?(Heidebrecht and Case) were successful last year because they did the things they excel at, and so for both of them to continue to do that is really what we?re looking for,? Schroeder said. ?I expect both of them to have great years.
?The better their years are, the better chance we have to get back to the state tournament.?
Additional returning seniors will contribute: second-baseman Zach Robson, a second team all-league selection; shortstop Dylan Seacat, honorable mention all-league; catcher, third baseman Caleb Williams; catcher, third baseman, pitcher Luke Steele; and outfielder Zac Lewman.
?This senior class was the class that I got my first year, so they?ve been able to be in the program now for their fourth year, and it makes a difference,? Schroeder said. ?They know what to expect.?
Schroeder said there is no entitlement mentality.
?Guys don?t just get to show up as seniors and play,? he said. ?We?re going to put the best nine on the field, and they need to come out, work in the preseason and get ready.?
Also returning are juniors Bret Voth, a second team all-league selection outfielder, and Jacob Baldwin, an outfielder and first baseman.
?Bret really came on during the league season last year,? Schroeder said. ?He played a lot of outfield for us, hit in the middle of our order.
?Jacob provided some good at-bats for us late in the year. He?s going to be a guy that we?re going to find a place for if he continues to hit the way he did at the end of last year.?
Sophomore pitcher Dylan Pippin has a good opportunity to contribute. Marion returns only two pitchers, Case and Luke Steele, that threw more than 15 innings last season.
?Dylan only threw maybe five or six varsity innings last year, and was good,? Schroeder said. ?We saw a lot of good things from him in practice last year during scrimmages. He?s a guy that?s worked hard over the summer. He?s coming in good shape. It?s not going to take a whole lot to get his arm ready to go.?
Together with Case, Heidebrecht and Steele, Pippin is expected to complete the pitching core.
?We?re going to look to get quality innings out of Dylan,? Schroeder said. ?He?s going to be hopefully in the rotation, so we can have four guys that start.
?(That) gives us a little more flexibility, and makes it easier on us when we?re playing four games in a week.
?Depth is an issue. It hasn?t been since I?ve been here. We?ve had the luxury of having six, seven, eight arms to roll out there. I know we?ve got four guys that have some experience. From there, we have to build some depth behind them.?
Schroeder expects the Warriors? offense to offset lack of depth on the mound.
?Offensively, we could almost be stronger than we were last year,? he said. ?I think we have a chance to be really good offensively, which hopefully can make up for the lack of depth on the mound that we have, at least right now.?
Marion is part of a competitive Heart of America league that sent three teams to state last season: Marion in 3A and Inman and Ell-Saline in 2-1A. Ell-Saline won the 2-1A title.
In addition to Inman and Ell-Saline, Sedgwick will be a team to watch.
?Our league will be very competitive this season,? Schroeder said. ?Sedgwick has traditionally been a tough series for us, and a lot of young teams throughout the league should be improved this season.?
The Warriors have set a number of goals for the season.
?We haven?t won a league championship,? Schroeder said. ?We?ve finished second every single year. That bothers me because I feel like we?ve had league-champion caliber teams. That?s a goal for us.
?We set three (goals): league championship, regional championship, state championship.?
After advancing to state last year, the Warriors will have to be prepared every time they take the field.
?We?re going to get everybody?s best shot, and it?s up to us to make sure we have our best shot ready for everybody that comes in,? Schroeder said. ?We?re going to have a target on us.
?We?re returning a lot of quality players, and teams know that, and so it?s up to us how good we can be.?
Marion was scheduled to open the season Tuesday at Herington. The Warriors will host Little River Tues?day.