Park Hill’s 2016 season couldn’t have been more down the middle.
Showing flashes of brilliance, the Trojans finished 13-15, drew the No. 4 seed for the Class 5 District 16 tournament and then disappointingly bowed out in the first round. They lose five All-Suburban Conference Red Division performers and now deal with a shift up to the Gold Division where the largest teams in the conference await to present a new challenge.
“Kids are working hard, and we have a good mix of returning players and young men to fill some holes,” Park Hill coach Greg Reynolds said. “Tyler Watson, Trevor Guzzo, Connor Morehouse and Chase McCollom need to be our leaders as we find out who is ready for varsity
Those four returning senior starters provide some optimism for the lineup. However, the pitching staff and catcher will be completely new for Park Hill.
Second team All-Red Division pitchers Aaron Ashby and Chris Bolte led the staff last year, while departed catcher Nate Thompson developed into a solid option behind the plate, also making second team all-conference. Even with those performers, the Trojans went just 1-3 against members of the Gold Division last year.
“I feel good about anybody we play and we have enough intensity to go up against anyone on the field,” said Watson, a senior who earned first team All-Red Division honors as a utility player. “I think we’re going to be a really competitive program and looking for a lot of W’s this year.”
Watson settled in at shortstop last season, while Liam Henry — a slick fielding left-handed hitting junior centerfielder — has breakout potential. He’s already committed to Arkansas and earned first team All-Red Division honors last season.
Guzzo (outfield), Morehouse (utility) and McCollom (second base) are the other returning starters, and Reynolds expects juniors Grant Mertz and Ben Zahnd and sophomores Zayne Morrow and Joe Daneff to compete for playing time this season.
Henry, a lanky left hander, could serve as ace for Park Hill, while Morehouse and Morrow could also be in line to see time on the mound. With so many innings to replace, Reynolds will likely be developing his staff as the season progresses.
“Our pitching is the key to our season,” Reynolds said. “We have a large group of arms to choose from, but all of them need to prove they are ready for the varsity level.”