Deep Kennett baseball squad hopes it gets a chance to showcase its talents
The pieces appear to be in place for another big year for the Kennett Indians baseball squad if it has an opportunity to compete on a diamond this spring.
Kennett has seven returning upperclassmen who started on last season’s squad that put together the Indians’ seventh winning season in the last decade with a record of 17-7.
“We bring back a lot of experienced players,” Kennett coach Aaron New said of his 26-man roster. “We have four seniors and three juniors on the roster that will lead the way for us. We also have a huge freshman class and a nice sophomore class that will provide us with some depth. We are excited about the underclassmen we have coming and also like our returning upperclassmen.”
Returning upperclassmen who saw significant playing time last season are senior Marshall Brown, senior Seth Tice, senior Carter Maddox, senior Jackson Henfling, junior Bodey Ellis, junior Kobe Gates, and junior Payton Heinley.
“Marshall Brown will be at first base along with a host of other guys when they are not pitching,” New said. “Bodey Ellis is also a candidate to play first base and some in the outfield. Jackson Henfling has been our starting catcher for the last couple of years. He will probably be backed up by Tanner Duncan and freshman Riley Henfling will probably be our No. 3 catcher.
“We also are blessed with depth in the outfield,” New added. “Seth Tice was our starting center fielder last season. Payton Heinley also got some time in the outfield when he wasn’t pitching. Kobe Gates is another guy that played a lot for us in the outfield last season. We’ve also got Carter Maddox who is a guy that has been in and out of our lineup since he was a sophomore. There are several guys out there fighting for three spots and the thing we like about it is all four or five of them can really play. There will be some competition there, but we like our depth.”
Sophomores Reese Robinett, J.T. Williams, and Tanner Duncan also received playing time on varsity as freshmen last season.
“Reese Robinett and Tanner Duncan played some at shortstop and third base for us last season,” New said. “Second base is still up in the air but J.T. Williams has a shot to get some playing time there. We also have a freshman, Tanner Pierce, who is pushing for some time on the infield."
New said Tice, who led the team in batting average last season, is likely to hit leadoff.
“Seth Tice was our leadoff hitter last year,” New said. “He did a tremendous job and finished second in the SEMO Conference in hitting.”
Robinett, Duncan, Ellis, and Henfling are among the other candidates to hit at the top of the lineup.
“Reese Robinett and Tanner Duncan hit in the middle of our order as freshmen last season,” New said. “Both of those guys are a year older now so we are looking for big things out of them.
“Jackson Henfling also really came on at the end of the year with his bat,” New continued. “We also expect a lot from Bodey Ellis. We have some thunder in our lineup and we think our offense will be strong. We’ve got a lot of guys that can play in a lot of different spots. We really like our depth and flexibility.”
New believes his squad is also blessed with solid pitching depth.
Brown, who has signed to pitch at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville next season, is a strong candidate to anchor the rotation. Heinley, Robinett, Williams, Duncan, and Gates all got time on the bump last season.
“We have some guys that got some experience last year and pitched for us or other teams over the summer,” New said. “We really think our pitching staff will be one of the strengths of our squad.”
Kennett has been selected to host Class 4, District 1. Defending district champion Sikeston, which is ranked No. 6 in the preseason state rankings, eliminated Kennett from postseason play last season before falling to eventual state champion St. Francis Borgia in a state quarterfinal. Joining Kennett and Sikeston in the seven-team district are Dexter, Doniphan, Fredericktown, Notre Dame, and Perryville.
“It is an extremely difficult district,” New said. “Doniphan has a guy who has signed with the University of Alabama on its team right now. Notre Dame is always Notre Dame and they’ve got a couple of guys that can pitch. The guy that pitched for Sikeston that beat us out in the district tournament last year was just a sophomore. Perryville has also been really good at times. It’s one of those districts that we feel like we have a chance to win but there are several teams in it that can beat you on any given day. You just hope you are healthy at the end of the year and you’ve got your pitching going in the right direction.”
School and spring sports have been suspended until at least Apr. 6 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coach New hopes having a veteran squad will be a luxury if a shortened spring baseball season is permitted to take place at some point.
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage or not to have an older team,” New said on Mar. 16. “I’ve never really thought about it until now to be honest but we do have a lot of guys that have played a lot of baseball so maybe it won’t take our guys too long to get going if the season is shortened. We have a lot of nice guys that can do a lot of nice things so we may not need a long season to be ready. But the main thing that concerns me is getting the pitchers ready. The bats come and go in a long season but finding a way to get the pitchers sharp will be key.”
Editor’s Note: An updated schedule will be provided at a later date if the spring baseball season is played.