Bobcat baseball team enters season with one goal in mind
The message is clear, and with Basehor-Linwood head coach Curtis Press, it usually is.
Make no mistake; the Bobcat baseball team is gunning for the top. Basehor-Linwood wants to bring home a state championship, and the team has the players to do it.
"The only goal you can have is the big one, and the big one means winning state," Press said.
With the players he has, Press likes his chances of accomplishing that goal. He has eight starters from last year's team, which had aspirations of winning state.
Last year, the Bobcats were No. 1 in the state for most of the season, but fell in regionals. With that team almost fully intact, the Bobcats are poised to make up for their early exit last year.
They just have to put it all together.
"With this talented group of kids, we have nothing but high expectations," Press said. "They are accomplished players, but they have never accomplished a championship berth.
"I'm pushing them hard, and the talent's there," he said. "But they have never won it. It's a mass of good talent, so we plan to at least be in the state tournament."
The talent was not always at Basehor-Linwood. In the decade the Bobcats have had baseball, last year was the first year they won a game, excluding byes, in a regional tournament.
Basehor-Linwood's baseball team was not used to winning until last year, and the players still have learning to do, Press said.
"They know they have to work hard, but they don't exactly know what it takes to be champions," Press said. "That's what I'm trying to instill in them."
1B Chris Maleta
2B Lucas Williamson
SS Jeremy Hampton
3B Brandon Beebe
C Darren Marx
Press gave his infield the lowest rating of any aspect of his team with a 3 out of 5, but he still said he had a solid group.
The problem with the entire defense, not just the infield, is the Bobcats are a slow team overall, Press said. They are good, but they are not quick.
The Bobcats are big rather than fast.
Senior Jeremy Hampton leads the infield at shortstop and is also the leadoff hitter.
"Jeremy is our best defender," Press said. "He is nearly flawless. He has range and an accurate throwing arm."
Senior Brandon Beebe shares the left side of the diamond with Hampton, manning the hot corner at third base.
Beebe has improved his defense from last year, Press said. He is quicker and has more range.
Offensively, he was a team leader in RBIs, and Press said he wants him to have similar production.
On the opposite corner stands the Bobcats' big first baseman, senior Chris Maleta.
Maleta is a power hitter and is in the cleanup spot in the batting order. Defensively, he has limited range but good hands.
"Chris has a heck of a bat," Press said. "We'll sacrifice some range for a good stick."
Next to Maleta at second base is sophomore Lucas Williamson. He is the only underclassman starter, but he has an important role.
Second base was a trouble spot for the Bobcats last year, and Press wants Williamson to correct that problem.
Press said Williamson was shaky on defense last year but has improved.
Senior Darren Marx is behind the plate. He is a good defensive catcher.
"Darren is a good receiver," Press said. "He blocks well, and throws extremely well."
Marx surprised people with his bat last year. He was a team leader in RBIs and home runs.
CF Brandon Dye
RF Derrick Bryan
LF Casey Jones
Basehor-Linwood's outfield also does not have blinding speed, but the three are a good defense unit. When they are in position to make the play, they usually will, and since all three are pitchers, they have sufficient arms, Press said.
"They get the balls that come to them," Press said. "They are good, but they're not quick."
Senior Brandon Dye is in center field, a change from last year. A right fielder last year, he moved to the middle because he is the fastest and he tracks the ball well, Press said.
Moving to right field this year is senior Derrick Bryan. Bryan is a quality fielder but an excellent hitter.
The lefty hit more than .500 last year and was second team All-Metro because of his bat. He will be hitting in the No. 2 position in the lineup.
Senior Casey Jones will be a regular starter for the first time this year. Mostly a reserve last year, he will take over in left field.
Jones and Bryan can both play left and right field, and Press is not sure who will play which position.
Press gave his outfield a rating of four out of five.
The Bobcat pitching staff is good but not great. The staff has talent, but the pitchers would be better suited for a team with a strong defense because they are the types that make hitters put the ball in play.
"We don't have an extremely dominant pitcher," Press said. "We have three darn good ones. They have capabilities, but nobody mows them down."
Press does not have a No. 1 starter right now, but the top three are seniors Jeremy Sheehan, Ross McCoy and Dye. Bryan and Jones round out the five-man pitching staff.
Press gave his pitching staff three and a half out of five.
The Bobcat offense is Basehor-Linwood's strongest asset. The Bobcat defense is hardly a weakness, but if it were, the offense would more than make up for it.
Basehor-Linwood boasts one of the most powerful offenses in the state.
"One through seven, we got some pop," Press said. "Hitting is top dog."
Last year, Press had six players hit more than .340. He expects to have at least that and possibly better.
Press said he would not classify his players as power hitters, but they are "heavy on the bats."
Press has no complaints with his teams hitting, giving the Bobcats a five out of five.
In the Dugout
McCoy is not a starter in the field, but he is the team's designated hitter, and can play just about anywhere in the field, including on the mound.
"He will get spot duty anywhere, but mainly he carries a big stick," Press said.
Press also has senior Robby Holland and junior Tyler Dowdall as reserves. Both will see most of their action in the outfield.
Basehor-Linwood is only traveling with 12 players on varsity.
The man leading the Bobcats, Press, has seen success everywhere he has coached.
This is his second year at Basehor-Linwood. His team was a favorite to win state last year, and it is again.
For two years prior to arriving at Basehor-Linwood, Press turned around the Pleasant Ridge High School team. He coached there for two year after inheriting a 0-16 team.
In those two years, Pleasant Ridge was a regional runner-up twice.
Before that, Press was an assistant at Bishop Ward, which has had success.
He attributes some of that success to his style.
"I push them," Press said. "They know I'm hard-nosed on the field. That's how I instruct, but the line of communication is completely open. We've already had a team meeting to hash some things out.
"They know I mean business," he said. "They know Press is on an agenda and the agenda is to be champions."