Coach: Joe Bickings
2016 record: 14-9
Starters lost: 3
Returning starters: 8
Assignment: Class 1, District 2
Notes: A strong finish from a young Oran squad last year has head coach Joe Bickings excited about the upcoming season.
The Eagles won 12 of their last 16 games and challenged the defending Class 1 champions in the district final after starting the year 2-5. They lost three starters from that group who ended the year 14-9, but return eight players who either started or saw valuable playing time.
"I wasn't happy with that at all," Bickings said about their slow start to last season. "After that stretch I ended up looking at our lineup and seeing that we were starting five sophomores and one freshman. I then looked at the quality of the teams that we lost to and I was able to breathe a little because I knew we were going to get better from this. Having that experience for such a young group and being able to bounce back and finish the season strong says a lot about that team."
Though they will have to replace graduated starters Preston Hahn (.342, 22 RBI), Blake Overfield (.338, 17 RBI) and Tanner McVay (.338, 19 RBI, 2 HR), the Eagles return their top three hitters and two of their top three pitchers.
Drew Reischman, a junior who was a second team, Class 1 all-state selection last year, returns after leading Oran with a .423 batting average, 35 RBIs and three home runs. Senior Austin Eftink batted .382 with 13 RBIs and junior Cole Priggel finished with a .351 average and 20 RBIs. Junior Clay Sauceda, who was a first team all-conference selection, added 22 RBIs and one home run behind a .333 average.
Oran also returns juniors Layne Johnson (all-conference honorable mention) and Denver Elfrink, sophomore Jacob Shoemaker and senior Drew Mitchem.
"Having a lot of returning starters helps," Bickings said. "I felt like we did lose a lot from last year's senior group but it's always going to be the next man up mentality."
Reischman and Johnson will be Oran's top two arms after both pitched 44 innings last season.
Reischman finished with a 7-3 record with one save and a 3.15 ERA. Johnson was 3-4 with four saves and a 3.45 ERA.
They will also look to freshman Todd Priggel, Sauceda, Cole Priggel and Elfrink to eat up innings as well.
With the new pitch count rule that was adopted by the Missouri State High School Activities Association in December, which limits the number of pitches a player can throw based on grade and rest days, however, Bickings said, "everyone is a pitcher this year."
Bickings also said that their fall baseball schedule, where they finished 7-1, was a big addition to their spring preparation.
"Having fall baseball has helped in a huge way with our development of the younger players and being able to get more reps in live game situations is always a plus in my book," Bickings said. "I look forward to seeing what this spring holds for us. I feel like we have the talent to be a very competitive team and hopefully we are playing our best ball towards the end of the year."
Oran will be in Class 1, District 2 along with the two-time defending Class 1 state champions and recent postseason nemesis Bell City, Advance, Delta, Scott County Central, Richland and Zalma.
|M.25||v. Dexter||10 a.m.|
|M.25||v. Valle||12 p.m.|
|M.29||Oak Ridge||4:30 p.m.|
|M.31||at Kennett||4:30 p.m.|
|A.5||at Scott City||4:30 p.m.|
|A.6||at East Prairie||4:30 p.m.|
|A.10||at Woodland||4:30 p.m.|
|A.13||at Advance||4:30 p.m.|
|A.17||at Charleston||6:30 p.m.|
|A.18||Saxony Lutheran||4:30 p.m.|
|A.26||at Leopold||4:15 p.m.|
|M.2||at Kelly||4:30 p.m.|
|M.8||at Bell City||4:30 p.m.|
|M.10||Poplar Bluff||4 p.m.|