MARION: Expectations remain same for Warrior baseball
Great Bend replaces Manhattan as Marion goal
That’s all it took for the Warrior baseball team’s dreams of making a second consecutive title game appearance in the 2018 Class 3A state tournament to go up in flames in the semifinals against Sabetha.
Marion finished its year on a high note at 22-3, though, blasting Riley County in the third-place game, 9-1 — the Warriors’ swan song competing in Class 3A.
Graduation hit Marion hard, taking a senior class away that won two regional titles and two state trophies.
Gone are Corbin Wheeler, Jacob Vondenkamp, backstop Garrett Hoffner, Riley Hake, and Centre utility man Cole Srajer.
If that’s not enough, Mother Nature’s done the Warriors no favors with never-ending mud keeping Marion off the field.
That leaves coach Roger Schroeder sailing blind into the season.
“I do think we’ll be a good team, but right out of the chute, I don’t know,” Schroeder said. “We’re so far behind from not being able to be on the field, we haven’t been able to see live pitching.
“We’re starting our fourth week and we’re taking our first ground ball today. Our bats are behind, our defense is behind, but our arms are going. We’ve been staying on schedule with that and that will be what we lean on early.”
That’s part of how Schroeder’s transformed the Warriors into a state powerhouse with his teams usually featuring a solid pitching rotation.
He’s got at least four in his arsenal this year and several others should there be any struggle.
“We’ve got four guys up near the top of the staff and three others behind them,” Schroeder said. “We’re going to have everyone on strict pitch counts, even more so than the state mandated ones so we’re not wearing anyone out in the first two or three weeks in the season.”
Senior Chase Stringer is just one of four Schroeder can use with Stringer an all-HOA league selection a year ago.
Sam Zinn was another first-team selection as a junior, and is solid both on the mound as well.
Zinn figures to shift over to shortstop after playing second base a year ago with Cooper Carpenter likely to replace Zinn at second.
Junior Jaxton Tracy came on strong as the season went deeper, coming off the win in the third- place game, where he fired a three-hitter while surrendering no earned runs.
Senior Blaine Mermis rounds out the starting rotation, but Schroeder’s got plenty of arms that can go if needed.
When Mermis isn’t on the mound, he’s likely to be at first base.
Who the pitchers have to throw to remains a concern since Hoffner graduated, leaving Schroeder open to applications for a backstop.
With former players like Nathan Baldwin and Hoffner, Hunter Helmer and senior Jared Rahe never saw action behind the plate.
The two figure to be the first ones to challenge for time at catcher if they’re able to avoid injuries.
Luke Lanning, one of the Warriors’ best clutch hitters, could see time catching later in the year, splitting time at third base, also.
Graduation hit the outfield the hardest as all three spots are vacant.
Schroeder’s got the guys to do it, with Eli Hett, Stringer, Tracy, and Mermis all capable he says.
If sophomore Braden Mercer puts in the time, he’s got a golden opportunity to break in, too.
Senior Evann Heidebrecht figures to be somewhere, possibly at first base, if he can keep his shoulder healthy.
“These first three weeks, not being able to get on the field really hurt us,” Schroeder said. “There’s too many questions I don’t have answers for, and even after Thursday and Tuesday (first two games) we still probably won’t because it’s not enough time.
“Last year we’d already had four games under our belt this time of year.”
The Warriors opened the season March 21, hosting Wichita Independent in a rematch from the 2017 state title game.
Last modified March 28, 2019