Park Hill South featured a deep roster a year ago with plenty of players gaining varsity experience.
The playing time could prove valuable this season with the infield boasting the most key returners. The Panthers will need to rebuild its pitching staff again with senior Jake Evans the only player back to throw more than 15 innings in an 18-12 season last year — a year that started as a potential rebuilding project but ended with a share of the Suburban Conference Red Division title and a loss in the Class 5 District 16 title game.
“I think we are shaping up OK, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Park Hill South coach Josh Walker said. “The guys seem to be working together.”
Evans finished with a 4-4 record and a 2.53 ERA as the No. 2 option behind ace and first baseman Jacob Thigpen
Park Hill South senior Chase Putnam (13 2/3 innings) and junior Collin Brougham (9 2/3 innings) can expect more time on the mound this time around. The pitchers will be throwing to a new catcher, still to be determined.
The infield could be the strength of the returning cast, including senior third baseman Jake Kline and senior shortstop Ryan Hagen. Kline had 31 hits, 23 runs and 14 RBIs as a junior, while Hagen had 10 extra-base hits (seven doubles) and 14 more driven in.
Brett Palmer, who played in 25 games, gives Park Hill South a third returning infielder with experience.
Malik Stevenson, a junior who forced his way into the lineup last year as a designated hitter, should again find a spot after scoring a team-high 32 runs a year ago. The left-handed hitting speedster ranked second for the Panthers with a .413 batting average, while stealing a team-high 19 bases.
Andrew Aswegan, a senior, led Park Hill South with a .425 average and .500 on-base percentage. He also had a team-high four triples and two home runs while driving in 18 but was unable to play in the district final after breaking a bone on a slide in No. 3 seed Park Hill South’s shutout win over Platte County in the semifinals.