DRURY PANTHERS (39-17)
Had the Panthers been able to come up with just a few more timely hits or had a couple of balls bounced a little more differently, Head Coach Scott Nasby would have finished his first campaign at the helm of the club in Cary. Unfortunately for the team however they narrowly dropped both of their regional games to have the season come to an end. Nonetheless, things are looking good in Springfield. The young Panther program, which has only been on the diamond for seven years, is looking strong. DU has the look of a club that could rival perennial powerhouse Central Missouri for state supremacy. The Panthers established a school record number of wins last year, and with plenty of accomplished players back on the diamond, that number could be eclipsed this season.
The Panthers pitching staff will be giving opposition fits with every pitch. The top four starters from last season are all back in the mound and each one of them put up top shelf numbers in 2013. Trevor Richards led the team with a 2.43 ERA and was also tops in wins as he finished with a 9-4 record on the year. He also fanned 64 batters in 77.2 innings while only allowing 19 walks. Richards will be rejoined in the rotation by Will Landsheft who is capable of putting up just as gaudy of numbers. Landsheft was 6-2 last year with a 2.76 ERA. He also had three complete games and struck out 79 batters in 75 innings with only 18 walks. Kevin Sweney and Austin Faulconer round out the rotation. Together they went a combined 14-4 with 2.50 and 2.79 ERAs respectively. The team will need to replace closer Laurent Zenoni who spent the past three years as the bullpen ace, but Ethan Mather, who K’d 35 batters in 24 innings of relief action should be able to fill the roll if he doesn’t move to the rotation. One addition to the staff to watch is 2013 Kansas Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year Ryan Colombo. In addition to batting .451 as a high school senior, he went 7-1 on the mound with a 1.01 ERA.
The offense will be without masher Matt Borgschulte who was last year’s most prolific hitter, but much of the rest of the roster remains intact. Nick Thimesch hit .387 and barring injury will leave Drury as the school’s all-time hits leader. He also stole 18 bases in 19 attempts last spring. Payton Reed led the Panthers and conference in average last season, finishing the year at .399 to earn GLVC Freshman of the Year honors. The Springfield native also added 18 doubles. Colton Jones is the school’s all-time leader in on base percentage and will also be back on the diamond. Last season he batted .325 with 31 walks and 16 HBPs to finish at .453. Senior shortstop Caleb Cole who has started every game since he arrived on campus has proven to be dependable with the glove and bat. Last season he hit .354 and added 14 stolen bases. The lineup is also expected to get a jolt from Spencer Wilmes who had an impressive freshman season last year. Wilmes had a .304 batting average and coaches say he’s stepped up his game for 2014.