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Friday, May 26, 2017

SD: 2017 Charleston Bluejays baseball preview

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Coach: Michael Minner

2016 record: 14-13

Starters lost: 3

Returning starters: 7

Assignment: Class 3, District 1

Notes: The Bluejays improved by 10 games last year compared to their four wins in 2015 and have most of that same roster coming back.

Charleston, who finished last year 14-13 and lost to the eventual third-place finishing Scott City Rams in the Class 3, District 2 semifinals, returns seven starters. One of those who could be considered their top returner, unfortunately, won't see the field.

Sophomore Ajay Sager, who was Charleston's third-leading hitter and leadoff man, tore his labrum and is expected to miss the season after surgery. Sager was Charleston's starting second baseman who hit .431 and scored 52 runs as a freshman.

"We have taken a big blow early losing Ajay Sager to labrum tear, which is going to create a shuffle," Charleston coach Michael Minner said.

Sagar was one of four players who hit above .400 last year for the Bluejays. The other three graduated.

Middle infielder Dylan Baugh led the team with a .494 average and drove in a team-high 42 runs. Starting catcher Andrew Thompson hit .428 with 30 RBI and third baseman/outfielder Brandon Grimes finished with a .434 average and 32 RBI.

Replacing those three departing seniors, as well as Sagar has been Charleston's biggest offseason hurdle.

"Our lineup is kind of up in the air right now, we have some guys who can play multiple positions which helps," Minner said. "At a small school you know how it goes, when one person is changed it changes the entire lineup. We have some guys stepping up and we're pretty athletic... We are going to be really young with only three upperclassmen on the entire roster, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. We just have to learn the game together and continue to work real hard."

One of Minner's upperclassman is Blake Simmons, who will be Charleston's pitching ace. Last year, Simmons finished with a record of 6-2 with 55 strikeouts and 17 walks in 40 innings. When he's not on the mound, Simmons, who batted .273 with 17 RBIs, will be placed as needed as one of Charleston's most versatile defenders.

Brandon O'Connor (3-1, 30 strikeouts), Braxton Housman (1-3) and Stephen Willis (1-1) all saw innings last year and are expected to do the same this season. Tanner Ray, Landyn Scott, Lane Moody and Cole McDermott will also toe the rubber at some point this season.

"Blake Simmons returns as our top arm," Minner said. "He has gotten stronger over the past year and will keep us in every ballgame. As for the rest of the staff we have a number of guys who will compete for a lot of time on the mound. We have some guys that have worked extremely hard to get better and we think our pitching will keep us in games if we play defense."

Charleston moves into Class 3, District 1 along with Caruthersville, East Prairie, Kelly, Portageville and Scott City. The Bluejays will host this year's district tournament at Hillhouse Park.

"As always, it's not how you start, it's how you finish," Minner said. "I feel like our program is in a really good position right now, we just can't put to much stock in wins and losses. We just have to continue to improve and be playing our best baseball at the end of the year...This group could surprise some people."

Roster

No.PlayerYr.Pos.
2Braxton HousmanSr.P/C
3Brandon O'ConnorSo.P/3B
4Ajay SagarSo.N/A
5Stephen WillisSo.P/OF
6Landyn ScottFr.P/SS
7Cole McDermottFr.P/OF
8Tyler MeeksSo.OF
9Blake SimmonsSr.P/UT
14Lee Thomas MoodyJr.P/2B
19Richard GillespieFr.OF
21Lane MoodyFr.P/3B/1B
22Tanner RaySo.P/1B
24Sam BledsoeFr.P/C/OF
25Tanner SmithFr.P/OF

Schedule

DateOpponentTime
M.17at Advance6:30 p.m.
M.18Portageville11 a.m.
M.18Puxico4 p.m.
M.20at Caruthersville4:30 p.m.
M.22at Cape Central5 p.m.
M.23Bloomfield5 p.m.
M.24Saxony ShowdownTBA
M.25Saxony ShowdownTBA
M.28at NMCC4:30 p.m.
M.30at Delta4:30 p.m.
A.1Woodland11 a.m.
A.1Herculaneum4 p.m.
A.3at Twin Rivers4:30 p.m.
A.4East Prairie6 p.m.
A.8v. Kelly11 a.m.
A.11Bernie5 p.m.
A.14at East Prairie11 a.m.
A.14v. West County1 p.m.
A.17Oran2 p.m.
A.17Chaffee6:30 p.m.
A.18at Sikeston4:30 p.m.
A.20Hayti5 p.m.
A.25Woodland5 p.m.
A.27at Saxony Lutheran4:30 p.m.
A.28Scott City7:30 p.m.
M.3SCC5 p.m.
M.8Zalma5 p.m.