Dusty Stroup was going to spend the summer after his freshman baseball season at Missouri Western playing in a league in Springfield, Mo. When that fell through, he found himself back in familiar surroundings.
And happy to be there.
Stroup, a Lee’s Summit West graduate, is back for a second season with the Midwest A’s, the Belton-based team for collegians that’s starting its fourth year in the Mid-Plains League. And if their 7-2 record as of last Tuesday is any indication, this could be one of the best teams the A’s have ever assembled.
“We’ve got a lot of dudes on the bench and in the field,” Stroup said. “Any of them could play at any college. We’ve got a lot of talent.”
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Will Rogers is the man who put together that talent. And while the A’s manager likes the depth of talent on the team he assembled, he still isn’t ready to call it his best yet. But he’s close.
“We’ve got a lot of guys – maybe too many,” Rogers said. “But we’re working where everybody’s getting opportunities.”
Rogers has 32 players on his roster, a good deal more than he’s had the last couple of seasons. And most of them can hit. The A’s are averaging nearly seven runs a game and have gone over double digits in their last three games before Wednesday.
A 10-3 victory Tuesday over the visiting Sabetha Lobos was pretty typical. The A’s pounded out 11 hits, including a solo home run by Nate Vossman during a three-run third inning, and buried the Lobos with a four-run, three-hit outburst in the sixth. They are averaging nearly seven runs a game.
“It seems to be repetitive the last few games,” said Stroup, who scored twice and drove in two runs after entering the game in the fourth inning. “We’ve been scoring a lot of runs and that definitely reflects the talent on this team.”
Rogers says the A’s have had several hot bats the early going. Travis Stroup, Dusty’s older brother and an all-league shortstop at Central Missouri, has also been hitting well. Michael Briggs, an O’Hara graduate who plays for Missouri State, hit three home runs in three at-bats recently. Belton native Tucker Perkins is hitting over .300 and Conner Sorge and Elijah Dilday from Central Missouri have also been crushing the ball.
“It’s just up and down the lineup,” Rogers said. “Every game we have at least one guy sitting on the bench that’s a .300 hitter.”
The A’s have pitchers, too, but Rogers isn’t ready to pick an ace yet. The leading candidate will likely be Missouri junior Ryan Lee, a right-hander from Grandview.
But Lee only threw 15 2/3 innings for the Tigers this spring, which means he isn’t ready yet to pile up the innings as a starter. Neither are the rest of the A’s arms, which is why Rogers has been using four or five pitchers a game. He used four against Sabetha, letting starter Drew Blair go 4 1/3 innings before following him with D.J. Elliott, Evan Rathburn and Briggs.
“We’ve got the luxury of two guys throwing from underneath, but we only have one lefty right now,” Rogers said. “We’re mixing speeds; we’re mixing pitches so we can give them different looks.”
Rogers expects the A’s to look competitive in the Mid-Plains League, which this year has eight teams in two divisions. The A’s are in the East Division, and on Wednesday they stood second to the 8-2 Liberty Monarchs and ahead of the Baldwin City Blues and the Midwest Veterans, who relocated from Independence to Olathe. Making up the West Division are Sabetha, the Junction City Brigade, Topeka Giants, and Rossville Rattlers.
The A’s home field remains at Belton High School, and their regular season runs through July 13. The Cowdin Cup playoffs will run July 15-22.
“I think we’re going to have a lot of fun this summer,” Stroup said.