West Platte’s Grant Eagen is back after hitting .408 last year and earning all-district honors.
The team went 7-10 last year and finished in a tie for fifth in the KCI Conference with a 3-9 mark. The 2017 season ended with a loss to Concordia in the district semifinals, which snapped a strong run of postseason berths for the group from Weston.
West Platte were state qualifiers in 2016 and 2014, while earning state trophies in 2015 and finishing as the Class 2 runner-up in 2013. The Bluejays won at least 15 games each season from 2010 to 2016.
The Bluejays return six players with varsity experience from last year’s squad that saw time and will have to replace four multi-year starters in Kyle Tabaka, Jack Summers Connor McNair and Alec Carson.
West Platte return three starting pitchers this spring — the backbone of the state playoff teams. Junior Nathan Plummer won three games last year on the mound, while junior Gavin Davis — a starter on the 2016 playoff team — picked up two wins while splitting time pitching and catching. Wyatt Kleman picked up a win last year as well for West Platte, part of six decisions on his record last year.
A projected cog in the rotation was going to be Noah Johnson, but foot surgery will keep him out most, if not all, of the season.
“The key to success starts wth throwing strikes,” said West Platte coach Tanner Lawson, who will be assisted by Mitch Giger. “We struggled with that last year and with fewer pitchers on our roster and with pitch-count limitations, we are going to need to be much more efficient from a pitching standpoint.”
Senior Grant Eagen hit .408 last year for the Bluejays and was an all-district pick. He will see time in the infield and on the mound this spring. Sophomores Jasper Basel (infield/pitcher) and Phillip Pattison (infield) also saw varsity playing time in their debut season.
As with any small-school team, sometime starting someone on the mound will mean a juggle of playing spots for the rest of the lineup.
“We are still a very young team that wants to improve upon last year’s record, compete in the KCI and hopefully put together a postseason run,” said Lawson, who is 58-30 at West Platte and 114-72 overall.