The Marion baseball team will rely on a number of new faces this year, having graduated all but two members from last year?s starting lineup.
Fifth-year coach Roger Schroeder said it will take time to solidify roles for this year?s squad.
?We?re still early in the process,? he said. ?With so many new faces, just the evaluation of it all has taken some time, but we?re definitely getting there.?
Eight seniors have graduated, seven of which were starters on last year?s state-qualifying team. Those losses begin with first-team all-state first baseman Taylor Heidebrecht, first-team all-state outfielder Grif Case, who also saw time on the mound; and second-team all-state second baseman Zach Robson.
The Warriors also graduated shortstop Dylan Seacat, catcher and third baseman Caleb Williams, pitcher Luke Steele and outfielder Zac Lewman.
Last season, the Warriors tied for first in the Heart of America league with an 11-1 record. Marion?s season ended with a 9-8 loss to Silver Lake in the Class 3A state quarterfinals, giving the Warriors a 22-2 overall record for the season.
?We lost a very experienced group,? Schroeder said. ?Not only were they talented from a baseball standpoint, but they were all just great kids and were able to bring a lot to our program even outside of baseball stuff.
?It?s tough to lose them, but we have a good group coming back and a lot of good kids coming in to help keep the program stable.?
Marion returns just two members from last year?s starting lineup: seniors Bret Voth and Jacob Baldwin. Both bring leadership to the team.
?Leadership is probably the biggest thing for us with them being the only two guys, really, that are on our roster currently that have seen any sort of significant varsity time,? Schroeder said.
A second-team all-state pitcher last season, Voth went 6-0 on the mound with an earned-run average of 0.55 and 31 strikeouts. Voth, who was also a first-team all-league selection last season, batted .373 over 23 games with an on-base percentage of .479.
Voth will anchor the pitching corps this season. When he?s not on the mound, he will be called upon to contribute at shortstop, a change from his position in the outfield last season.
?I think we have some talent in the outfield to where we?re able to move Bret in,? Schroeder said. ?The downside of that is (we) lose one of our best outfielders. We?d love to have him out there, but I think we have a place for him in the middle of the infield where his experience can really help us.?
A second-team all-league pick a year ago, Baldwin batted .321 in 21 games with an on-base percentage of .438. He, too, will fill a new role this year, moving from the outfield to first base. Bald?win brings some experience to the position, having played there when Heide?brecht was on the mound last year.
?I feel comfortable with the choices that we have in the outfield to even bring Jake in and just exclusively play first base,? Schroeder said. ?He?s going to pitch a little bit for us, too.?
Three additional letter-winners return.
Senior Trevor Kruse will see more time in the outfield this year, having seen action in six games last year.
?He can run a little bit,? Schroeder said. ?He?s got some pop in his bat, but he did spend a little bit of time away from baseball early in high school, so still getting back in the swing of things for him, but he?s definitely making strides.?
Sophomore third baseman and pitcher Peyton Heidebrecht returns, having also played in six games. He did not pitch in any varsity games last season.
?He?s a guy that might be able to provide some innings for us,? Schroeder said. ?He?s not going to overpower you. He?s going to throw strikes. He?s going to stay down in the zone, and hopefully he turns into a ground ball machine for us.?
Junior pitcher Dylan Pippin returns after seeing limited action last season due to an arm injury. Offen?sively over four games, he batted .333.
?He was a guy I was really excited about last year, and we just could never get over the hump with getting his arm healthy,? Schroeder said. ?We?re kind of easing him along and hoping that we can get him some innings on the mound.?
Schroeder said finding depth on the mound will be key to the Warriors? success.
?We do have the luxury of having somebody like Bret?who had a great season last year?to kind of lean on, but we?ve got to have other guys,? Schroeder said. ?Finding depth is definitely imperative to what kind of season we?re going to have.?
Schroeder said the team is making progress in adding depth on the mound to a strong defense.
?We?re always known for being a very good defensive team and being very fundamentally sound,? he said. ?It?s important for us to get depth on the mound.?
Schroeder will look to a number of newcomers to contribute this season. They include senior outfielder Dakota Stimpson; junior second baseman and catcher Remington Putter; sophomore catcher Nathan Baldwin; sophomore outfielder, pitcher, infielder Mason Pedersen, and freshman shortstop and outfielder Corbin Wheeler.
Stimpson is one of six athletes from Centre in the first year of a cooperative agreement between the two schools. Schroeder said having more athletes will not only increase depth but will allow the team to play more junior varsity games.
?We have 26 kids out this year, and that?s the most that we?ve had since I?ve been here,? he said.
Some Centre athletes may be asked to fill roles right away.
?There?s some guys that could contribute for us immediately, and so it?s been a good relationship so far,? Schroeder said.
Schroeder said league competition will be different this year.
?The last two years, it has been very top-heavy with us and Sedgwick,? he said. ?It?s not going to be top-heavy because I don?t feel like there?s a top-of-the-line team out there right now.?
While Schroeder expects Sedgwick to be strong again, the rest of the league is fairly wide open, with teams such as Inman, Canton-Galva, Bennington, Ell-Saline and Moundridge all joining Marion as contenders.
?It?s just going to be kind of everybody in a free-for-all,? Schroeder said. ?I don?t think anybody can afford to take a doubleheader off because you can get bit by somebody this year.?
Despite so many new faces this season, Marion?s goals remain the same.
?We always talk about the three goals that we instituted when I started here and those goals don?t change,? Schroeder said. ?Our goal is still to win a league championship. It?s still to win a regional championship and go to the state tournament.
?Are we going to be a 22-2 team like last year? More than likely not. Are we going to be competitive in every single game that we play? Yes, because we have players that are going to buy into what we?re doing.?
Marion was scheduled to open the season against Chase County March 31. The Warriors will host Sedgwick at 4:30 p.m. Tues?day.