Spring Training 2004
ith an interim coach and eight new starters, the Basehor-Linwood
The Basehor-Linwood baseball team is in transition.
The Bobcats are trying to replace 12 of the 13 players who had substantial roles in the team's run to the Regional Championships this year.
The one player returning from last year, senior Lucas Williamson, may be looking at a position change, and the team is getting used to recently promoted head coach Dave Svoboda, whose "interim" title also implies transition.
But despite all the adjustments, the Bobcats think this year could be just as successful as last year, if not more.
"We're going to try to win state," Williamson said. "I think we've got a good enough team to do it too."
"We're different from last year, but I think we'll have a better team than everyone's expecting," junior Kyle Speichinger added.
Svoboda acknowledged that this year's team would miss heavy hitters like catcher Darren Marx and some of the other players who graduated last year, but said he was excited about coaching a team centered around defense, clutch hitting and aggressive base-running.
"Last year we could beat teams 17-14; we had more guys in that lineup who were doubles and home runs-type guys," Svoboda said. "This team will have to play small ball, get the bunt down, hit and run, just basically do lots of little things really well. We'll really have to fight and scrape, but I love coaching that way."
At the center of the team's new emphasis on defense is Williamson, who played second base for last year's championship squad.
Svoboda said he was considering moving Williamson to shortstop to put his fielding prowess to even greater use, but Bryan Sherrell, a transfer from Oklahoma, had also flashed a nifty glove at short.
Svoboda said both players would certainly find a spot somewhere on the field.
Svoboda said he also had a lot of confidence in a group of seniors who had all played sparingly for the varsity team last year. He said he'd be relying on Adam Smith, Tyler Dowdall and Billy Hashman, as well as Josh Ishmael, a junior who saw some varsity time last year.
Dowdall, who will be counted on to cover a lot of ground in the outfield, said he would embrace Svoboda's "small ball" game even if it meant getting more bunt signs.
"It that's what I get that's what I get," Dowdall said. "And if I don't put it down I might not be up there swinging next time."
Speichinger might be one player who can provide a little pop to the Bobcats' "small ball" offense.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior is expected to team with sophomore Alex Smith as the team's catchers, and try to replace Marx's big bat.
"I'm not really feeling too much pressure," Speichinger said. "I had to play behind Darren for the last two years. He was a great player and now I'm looking at it like it's my chance to be a great player."
Svoboda said Hashman, a lefty, had shown tenacity on the mound as a junior varsity pitcher last year and would be counted on to be the team's ace this year.
He said his fondness for left-handers might also get junior Seth Lashbrook some innings, and Cody Herbster's lanky build would give him a shot as a hurler.
Beyond that, he said Adam Smith, Ishmael and Brett Miles would probably round out the team's pitching staff.
With the April 1 season opener fast approaching, Svoboda is busy teaching the new crop of Bobcats to play his running game, which will put the pressure on other teams' defenses.
"If there's a flair to the outfield I want these guys thinking 'this is a double' until the play is made," Svoboda said. "Our approach is always going to be to jump on them early and then peck, peck, peck."