COLUMBIA — The Hickman Kewpies will play their first game of the baseball season at 5 p.m. tomorrow as they host Southern Boone.
The Kewpies are looking to improve upon last year’s 12-12 season, which ended with a loss to Jefferson City in the district tournament.
Hickman coach Dave Wilson said with 16 returning lettermen, 15 seniors and an entire pitching staff returning, he expects his team to be more consistent than last year’s and to compete for a district championship.
“Last year we did not play to our potential every day, and we had a hard time hitting with runners in scoring position,” Wilson said. “Last year’s team was built on defense and pitching, and I believe that will continue to be our strength.”
Wilson said experience and senior leadership will help prepare his team to be more focused.
“Going into this season, we feel good about the makeup of our team,” Wilson said. “Most of these kids have been playing varsity extensively for at least two years, so they know what to expect.”
Senior shortstop Colin Kemble said experience will be a real asset during the district tournament, especially when playing younger teams.
“Having so many seniors gives us an advantage going into districts,” Kemble said. “We have been there before, and we won it during our sophomore year.”
Senior left fielder Taylor Steuber says his team has something to prove because the seniors want to go out on a winning note.
“I think we are going to finally break out of our shell this year,” Steuber said.
Although last season ended with lukewarm results, Wilson fully anticipates his team to play at a higher level and be playing for a championship.
Senior catcher Bart Steponovich said, “Our main goal is districts, but after that, who knows.
Wilson agreed, adding, “Our district is a tough district and we feel like we do not need to look ahead.”
Wilson said there is not a big difference between this and last year’s teams.
“We obviously want to change the win-loss record from last year, but there is not much change planned for this team.” Wilson said. “It is unique to have that many seniors on a ball club.”
Senior pitcher Greg Kanuckel said having a senior-laden team is not just important for this year’s team, but for future of the Kewpies baseball program.
“Being a senior, it helps to have that kind of leadership and experience in pressure situations,” Kanuckel said. “I know that I am more confident this year because I have been there before and I believe that we can pass on what we know to some of the younger guys.”