Last season ended for Harrisonville a run down with two outs and runners scoring position in the bottom of the seventh. A chopper to third led to a throw to the plate, which got the runner by a half-step.
“If we hit the ball to anyone but the third baseman, we probably win that game,” Wildcats baseball coach Dave Hix said.
That 6-5 loss against longtime rival Pleasant Hill in the Class 4, District 13 final still stings for Harrisonville. It also serves as incentive for this season. Five starters and 10 seniors are back from that 13-10 team, and Hix believes this year’s team could have more depth and talent.
“They’re hungry,” said Hix, whose Wildcats last won a district title in 2015. “They’ve lost that way the last two years. They’re a little driven to go out and reclaim it.”
Harrisonville will try to reclaim it with a core group who can contribute at several different positions, including on the mound. Four of the five returning starters are also pitchers: infielders Mason Scrivener, Shawn Schrock, Jack Charlton and Drew Mulvey.
“We’ll have a lot of depth this year,” Hix said. “We’re carrying nine kids who can pitch and they all can play more than one position. Early on, it’s going to be finding out who fits where.”
Scrivener will start out the season as Harrisonville’s No. 1 starter, followed by Schrock, Charleton and junior Gage Anderson. Elbow and shoulder issues ended Scrivener’s season last year before districts, but Hix said he looks strong and ready for this season.
“He’s been on an offseason conditioning program,” Hix said. “He’s probably put 5 to 6 miles an hour on his fastball.”
Hix said the pitching looked promising during a jamboree March 14 at Lee’s Summit North, where the Wildcats tied the host Broncos 2-2 and lost 1-0 versus Lee’s Summit in three-inning games. That’s not much offense, but Hix expects the bats to come around as well.
The offense will be led by seniors Joe Bowers, Lane Powers and Mulvey. Bowers, who is moving from right to center field, batted .397 last year with 21 RBIs and will hit from the No. 2 hole.
Powers, the starting catcher, batted a team-best .452 last season and also led the Wildcats in home runs (4) and RBIs (26). Powers and Mulvey, a first baseman who batted .300 last season, could interchange in the No. 3 and cleanup spots.
The lineup will have some pop, but Hix said the Wildcats don’t have the quickness they had last season, so creating runs could be more of a challenge.
“Last year we had a ton of speed,” Hix said. “We didn’t give anyone the green light; we gave them the red light. This year is going to be a little bit different. We’re going to have to manufacture runs more than we did last year, because we don’t have all that speed.”
Hix is certain of one thing the Wildcats have this year: A determination not to let this season end as agonizingly close to a district championship as last year’s did.
“The guys want to go out winners,” Hix said. “They want to get that district championship and they want to earn it. They’re going to work hard to get that done.”