Big expectations for Concordia as pitchers set to lead the way
With all five of its top pitchers returning, a Concordia High School Orioles baseball team ranked No. 10 in the preseason polls could have no problem staying in the state’s top 10 if they play up to their team strengths.
Coming off of a 16-8 (8-3) record and their second straight Class 2 District 16 championship, the Orioles have set a high bar and have equally as lofty expectations of themselves. Replacing Second Team All State infielder Cameron Cooper will be difficult, as will be replacing starting centerfielder and pitcher Abram Frerking, but head coach Nathan Beissenherz believes great things are in store for the O’s this season in Class 1.
“I think if we can avoid injuries and throw consistent strikes, we should have a good shot at our conference and district titles,” Beissenherz said. “A lot depends on our pitching and the bottom part of the lineup.”
Beissenherz — who, over his 14 previous seasons as CHS’s skipper, has managed the Orioles to a 164-112 record, including five district championships and a Class 1 state championship in 2010 — also mentioned that neither the conference schedule or tournament will be easy, with a number of good teams vying for the top spot.
If the Orioles live up to their potential, it will certainly be a reflection of their performance on the defensive side. Senior Matthew Gatewood projects as one of the best infielders in the area and one of the best pitchers in the state after a Second Team All State finish from the mound in 2018, while sophomore Austin Droege will look to carry confidence from an impressive freshman campaign over into 2019. Junior Brayden McGinnis, junior Peyton Moore, and senior Lane Mueller will also be important from the bump. Expect to see sophomore Troy Brandt and freshman Will Rehkop eat up a few innings, as well.
After a season of improvements, Moore is tasked with getting it done behind the plate again this season. Beissenherz believes Moore’s defense will be huge for the team and could stand out in the conference, while his offense should bounce back after a marginal year offensively. Two other capable catchers, junior Hunter Wilckens and freshman Jake Tagtmeyer, will slap the gear on when Moore is on the mound or needs a rest.
Utility man Droege and first baseman Mueller should join Gatewood in the top half of the batting lineup. Third baseman McGinnis will possibly bring the conference’s best bat to the lineup, so penning him in the top of the order seems extremely likely.
Senior Cameron Kelly will vie for a spot in the outfield, as well, and offensive improvements could make him a darkhorse player to watch out for in the I-70 Conference.
A new tool for this squad will be its speed. Despite not burning on the base paths in 2018, Beissenherz expects a modest amount of mayhem on the base paths from his squad. A nest full of possible .300 hitters combined with more mobility should bode well for the Orioles, especially in tight contests where an extra base or two can make all the difference (five of the team’s eight losses in 2018 were by just one run).
A tough schedule awaits them — including a nonconference matchup with Northwest (Hughesville) High School, currently No. 4 in the same Missouri State High School Baseball Coaches Association (MSHBCA) Class 1 state preseason rankings that have CHS at No. 10. A grueling slate of ballgames is all part of Beissenherz’s plan, however.
“I believe that we have more games scheduled than any other team in the conference, which might put us at a disadvantage with several conference games a week if there are no rainouts, but games are what gives the guys experience,” Beissenherz explained. “And that has worked out well the last few years. It’s nice to get wins early and gain confidence, but it only matters how well you are playing at the end of the season.”
If anybody knows the importance of playing well late in the season, it would be the coach of back-to-back district champs. Class 1 District 12 could be difficult, with Northwestern (Mendon) High School coming off of a good season and a crew of young talent taking over Santa Fe High School and Wellington-Napoleon High School squads, but at this moment, the road to the state tournament should rest on the shoulders of the Concordia High School Orioles and their tremendous pitching staff.
“If we can get some games in and aren’t rained or snowed out a lot then I think we can gain the experience we need to win the conference and district,” Beissenherz said, “and hopefully go far in the state tournament and win another state title.”