Bobcats strive for ‘next level’
Basehor-Linwood baseball players are shooting for the next level this season.
“We’re concerned with each player getting a little better each day as a player, person and student,” coach Dave Svoboda said. “If that takes place, we can reach that ‘next level,’ which would allow us to be competing for a league title. It’s an extremely tough league, but one that we feel we can be very competitive in.”
BLHS has had just one practice with all 31 junior varsity and varsity players in attendance as a result of three factors: sick players, spring break and the boys basketball team winning its first Class 4A state championship.
In spite of not having every player in attendance, Svoboda has been pleased with the team’s practices. Players have worked on baseball fundamentals: running, hitting, throwing and fielding.
“We have recently begun work on the little things that allow a team to become a champion: ability to move runners, bunting, the hit and run, and first-and-third bunt defense,” Svoboda said. “In general, I’ve been pleased with how our kids have responded to what we’ve asked them to do.”
The team’s nucleus revolves around Justin Gripka.
“Justin was one of the four best pitchers in our league last year, and we look for great things from him this year when he gets back in form,” Svoboda said. “Obviously, he’s about two weeks behind with the basketball team’s run through state, and he’s had the flu for a few days since. But we look for him to have a great year.”
The team also has three juniors returning this season in Brandon Leppke, Ryan Lawless and Tyler Henley.
“They are a group of three juniors who have already gained a great deal of respect around our league,” Svoboda said. “All three are guys who can beat you with the glove or the bat.”
In addition to Gripka on the mound, Henley, Lawless, Ben Zuk and Kyle Savner are potential starters for the team. Left-handed pitchers Jeff Johnson and Destry Bryan are also expected to contribute. Leppke is also expected to pitch this season.
With those players involved, the Bobcats are attempting to build a foundation based on pitching and defense.
“We want to pitch it well and make all the plays,” Svoboda said. “That is where we hope we’re the strongest. We want to pitch it well and make all the plays.”
The team looks to play small ball on offense, with a little power in the middle of the lineup.
Basehor-Linwood opens the season with a game at Bishop Ward on Wednesday. The team’s home opener is against Bishop Ward on April 4.
“We need to remain focused on the big picture: playing our best baseball as we approach regional time,” Svoboda said. “If we can truly get better each day, we will
take that next step, move to that next level. That’s what we’re after.”