BASEBALL PREVIEW: Kennett looks to rely on pitching

Saturday, March 2, 2019
Photo by Dustin Ward, staff
Kennett’s Marshall Brown delivers a pitch in the 2018 season. Brown is entering his junior season.

The Kennett Indians high school baseball program enters the 2019 season looking to make noise with a talented group of underclassmen and a few returning veteran starters.

Photo by Dustin Ward, staff
Kennett’s Bodey Ellis delivers a pitch in the 2018 season. Ellis is entering his sophomore season.

Kennett has two seniors, four juniors, five sophomores, and eight freshmen on its varsity roster.

Photo by Dustin Ward, staff
Kennett’s Kobe Gates delivers a pitch in the 2018 season. Gates is entering his sophomore season.

The Indians graduated four starters off of last season’s squad that finished 17-9.

Photo by Dustin Ward, staff
Kennett’s Andrew Spence returns a ball to the infield in the 2018 season. Spence is entering his senior season.

“We are going to have some youth,” Kennett longtime coach Aaron New said. “Both of our seniors - Andrew Spence and Parker McClain - have been with us through the whole thing. Andrew Spence was an all-conference player last year. We will be looking for some leadership from our two seniors because we are going to have some young kids playing some important roles for us.”

Kennett’s incoming freshmen class went undefeated at the eighth-grade level last season.

“They’ve all pitched well and there are a couple of nice bats with that group,” New said.

Pitching is expected to be a forte for the Indians.

“We’ve got some really nice arms coming back in Payton Heinley, Kobe Gates, and Marshall Brown,” New said. “We’ve also got a couple of freshmen who could compete for some innings. We’ve got some really nice arms and think pitching could be one of our strengths. We look like we’ve got some depth with multiple guys who could win the big game.”

Kennett also has the luxury of returning most of its infielders.

“Andrew Spence is going to be a guy that will play both of the corner infield spots for us,” New said. “Jackson Henfling caught most of the games for us last year and will probably be behind the plate for us again this season. Bodey Ellis, who was our full-time shortstop as a freshman will be back as well.

“Second base is still kind of a tossup for us right now,” New continued. “We feel like we have three or four options there and are looking for someone to step up. Kiante Dupree, Reese Robinett, J.T. Williams, and Tanner Duncan could all see some time. There are a lot of good options to fill in at some spots we are not 100 percent sure about right now.”

New said the outfield spots also remain undecided a few weeks before the start of the season.

“Parker McClain, our other senior, will be pushing for one of the outfield spots,” he said. “Carter Maddox, Payton Heinley and Seth Tice are other guys contending for outfield time.”

Kennett opens its season Mar. 15 and Mar. 16 at Hillhouse Park in Charleston. Kennett plays Neelyville Mar. 15 at 4 p.m., East Prairie Mar. 16 at 3 p.m., and Charleston Mar. 16 at 5:30 p.m.

“I’m not normally one that plays the first weekend,” New said. “We typically open with Poplar Bluff. But this year we had some scheduling conflicts and were unable to get in some tournaments in Tennessee so I decided to play at Charleston. I’m just anxious to get us out there. The kids will be tired of practicing by mid-March and will be ready to play. We want to get as many pitchers as we can out there that first weekend and see how things turn out.”

Kennett’s non-conference schedule features its fair share of out-of-state opponents. The Indians are slated to play Dyer County (Tenn.), Jonesboro (Ark.), Gosnell (Ark.), Greene County Tech (Ark.), Harding Academy (Ark.), and Marion (Ark.).

“On paper, it’s probably the toughest schedule we’ve had since I’ve been here,” New said. “Marion (Ark.) made it to the state championship game last season. They eliminated Jonesboro (Ark.), which is another team that got to the state championship the year before. We’ve also got Greene County Tech and Dyer County that will be tough non-conference games in addition to the tough conference games we have in the SEMO Conference.”

New expects tough completion in the SEMO Conference once again this season.

“I think it’s the best conference on this side of the state,” he said. “What we’ve seen in the past is if we can compete well in that conference we have a reasonable chance to win a district championship. It does us nothing but good to play Jackson, Cape Central, Notre Dame, Sikeston, along with the other teams in the conference.”

It is unclear if Kennett, which has traditionally competed in Class 4, will drop to Class 3 this season.

“The district assignments will be released March 8,” New said. “I think the best chance we’ve had to drop to Class 3 might be this year but I’m not 100 percent sure. Normally we know what district we are in and who we have to beat but right now we really don’t know. We are preparing to be Class 4 like always but turned in lower enrollment numbers this year than some teams that have been in Class 3 before so we will just have to wait and see.”

Kennett Varsity Baseball Schedule

3/15NeelyvilleCharleston4 p.m.
3/16East PrairieCharleston3 p.m.
3/16CharlestonHome5:30 p.m.
3/19Poplar BluffHome4 p.m.
3/20DexterAway4 p.m.
3/22North CountyHome6 p.m.
3/26MaldenAway1 p.m.
3/27Dyer CountyAway4:30 p.m.
3/29JonesboroHome4:30 p.m.
4/1PortagevilleAway4:30 p.m.
4/2Gosnell (Ark)Home4 p.m.
4/10SikestonAway4:30 p.m.
4/11Greene Co. TechParagould4:30 p.m.
4/12Harding Acad.Searcy4:45 p.m.
4/16Notre DameCape Girardeau4:30 p.m.
4/18NMCCAway4 p.m.
4/20Cape CentralHomeTBA
4/25MarionAway4:30 p.m.
4/26-29SEMO Tourn.TBATBA
5/2East Carter Co.Home4:30 p.m.
5/4South PemiscotHome11 a.m.
5/6Senath-H’villeHome4 p.m.
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