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Manhattan attainable for Warriors

Staff writer

One year ago, the numbers 72.4 were printed on the Marion Warrior baseball teams’ T-shirts.

That depicts the precise mileage from Marion High School’s parking to the site of the Class 3A state baseball tournament, Kansas State University in Manhattan.

It worked to the tune of the Warriors making it all the way to title game before running into a monster unlike any they’d seen in state champion Wichita Independent.

As the sun rises on a new year, the 72.4 still remains on the Warriors’ shirts, however, it’s much smaller and inside of what will be on their backs this year: a bull’s eye.

Warrior baseball coach Roger Schroeder knows it, too, which is why he’s forewarned his team they’re not going to be sneaking up on anyone as they might have a year ago, especially considering graduation wiped out four starters, including all-state performers Peyton Heidebrecht and Nathan Baldwin, as well as Mason Pedersen and Seth Savage.

Marion has enough back from last season’s 22-2 runner-up that may not just knock on the door of a state title, but kick it in.

“We have a lot of guys coming back, as well as some new guys, but it’s a new year, and we’re a new team,” Schroeder said. “It’s a good mixture of experience and we’ve got some holes to fill.

“The talent and the ability is there, but it’s putting it all together. We’re doing what we can right now.”

The Warriors are loaded on the mound, as well as virtually every position with a multitude of depth.

Headlining a pitching rotation that can run at least five deep is Blaine Mermis

The 6-5, 240-pound junior’s size alone is intimidating, and throwing up near the 90 mph mark, Mermis has garnered attention from several NCAA Division 1 schools.

Joining Mermis will be seniors Corbin Wheeler, Sam Zinn, and juniors Chase Stringer and Eli Hett.

Also figuring into the mix on the mound will be Hillsboro transfer Jaxton Tracy, who’s likely to make an immediate impact wherever Schroeder decides to use him.

Whoever is on the mound will have a solid backstop to throw to in senior Garrett Hoffner, who takes over for Baldwin.

Outside of that, Schroeder’s taking applications for Heidebrecht’s third base job and right field, with Wheeler, Zinn and Peyton’s brother, junior Evann, helping anchor the infield.

When Mermis isn’t on the mound, his height gives Marion a good first-baseman, and Heidebrecht should figure to split duties there as well as in the outfield.

Centre jack-of-all trades Cole Srajer has done everything but catch, leading a speedy outfield from center field.

Jensen Riffel joins Srajer as the only pair of Cougars for Marion, with Riffel also providing depth at catcher as well as in the infield.

Senior Jacob Vondenkamp joins Srajer from left field with Hett and Stringer challenging for right.

Sophomore Luke Lanning is another that’ll push for time, possibly at third and in the outfield.

With the season starting Friday due to use of Wichita State University’s ballpark for a rematch with the Panthers for the opener, the Warriors will already have a four-game advantage by the time opponents’ seasons begin.

Last modified March 22, 2018

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