Platte County reached the postseason for the first time in Class 5 last year behind a senior class of 13 players.
The Pirates claimed a district championship for the first time since 2006 last spring, but now coach Rob Davenport will have some new faces in the lineup and the rotation, trying to fill the spot of nine all-conference performers that graduated.
The Pirates went 24-3 overall and picked up the Suburban Conference Blue Division crown with a 10-0 mark.
The Pirates list of postseason honorees that graduated included Justin Mitchell, Austin Gammill, Dillon Doll, Drew Parmeley, Jared Wilson, Grant Garver, Ryan Frazier, Blake Conner and Colton Horn.
Mitchell — a 39th round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals and now at Oklahoma University — and Wilson were both Class 5 all-staters in the Missouri Baseball Coaches Association team and finished No. 5 in the poll. Wilson, an all-conference pick at shortstop as well, is now playing at Cowley County (Kan.) Community College.
“We graduated 13 seniors last year so we will be starting a lot of sophomores this year with a few juniors and seniors sprinkled in,” said Davenport, who will be assisted by Randy Sneed, Neil O’Brien, Todd Jaros, Dave Baker and Darrick Hale. “We are starting the season with a couple of key players injured so it will take some time to settle in with a starting lineup.”
The Pirates will return three all-conference players — two of them have signed to play baseball at the next level. Outfielder Kobe Cummings was a first-team all-conference pick after hitting .374 with 10 extra base hits and will play baseball and football at Missouri Western.
Ethan Esdohr was a second-team all-league pick as an outfielder, hitting .302 with 18 RBI, while posting a 3-0 mark and 0.34 ERA on the mound. Max Hunter, a third base, was an honorable mention pick after hitting .255 last year. He has signed to play at Pittsburg State, but will start this year in a hitting only role following shoulder surgery in the offseason.
Other returning Pirates with varsity experience include junior pitchers Glen Gammill — 5-0 with a 1.31 ERA — and Dalton Riechers, who will also have a chance to see time at infield. Senior outfielder Hunter Tongate is back after having only seven at-bats due to injury.
Other players that will factor into the rotation include senior Devin Kunkelson, juniors Christian Grissell, Nolan Saale, sophomores Grant Allen, Chase James, Blake Minyard, Trent Rueckert and freshman Hunter Cox.
Grissell (first base), Saale (catcher/oufielder), Allen (infielder/outfielder), James (infield), Minyard (first base/third base) and Ruekcert (infielder) will have a chance to see times playing a position, as will junior Colby Sneed, who will battle Saale for the catcher spot that Mitchell held for four years.
“We have a great group of young talented players,” said Davenport, entering his eighth year at Platte County and 15th overall as a head coach. “We cant wait to get on the field and see what they can do at the varsity level.
“Our goal for this year will be to get the young players playing time and continue to improve every day. We hope to be a pretty competitive team by the end of the season.”