There’s quite a bit of turnover on the roster, but that’s nothing new for Lee’s Summit Post 189 Auxiliary Outlaws manager Mark Bradford. It’s all just part of the process.
“One group would come in and they’d go and another group would come in,” Bradford said. “All my kids have kind of come in waves. We just had a wave of kids ready to come in, fortunately.”
Bradford, who took over the Outlaws three years ago following the death of longtime manager Mike Gailey, is dealing with a larger wave of newcomers this season. The wave that got the Outlaws to the American Legion baseball state championship series for the first time has mostly washed away.
And while he doesn’t expect this group to match what last year’s senior-laden team accomplished, Bradford still believes they can be successful. After getting out to an 11-7 start, the Outlaws have already tasted some success.
“That was a good team,” Bradford said of the squad that went 35-10 and lost to Jefferson City Post 5 in the state final. “I don’t expect them to play that well coming out of the gate, but I expect them to come in and adjust and that’s exactly what they’ve done.”
Bradford has only three veterans back from that state-tournament team: pitcher/first baseman Jeremy Root, third baseman/catcher Jaxson Hill and second baseman Jason Gonzalez. Most of the rest either played for the Outlaws’ successful Junior Legion team last summer or are new to the program.
Root, who graduated last month from Lee’s Summit North, is off to a hot start at the plate with a .574 batting average. Hill, a junior and Suburban Gold all-conference first-team third baseman last spring at North, has a .400 batting average. Gonzalez, who transferred from North to a high school in Kansas after his junior year, is hitting at a .303 clip.
Some of the newcomers have also contributed at the plate: Catcher Wyatt Urzendowski, a North junior last season, shortstop Trevor Key and outfielder Logan Adams from North are all hitting .350 or better.
As a team the Outlaws batted .370 in their first 18 games, which came as a pleasant surprise for Bradford.
“We’ve really hit the ball probably harder than I thought this year,” Bradford said.
Root and Will Murray from Lee’s Summit West head up a pitching staff that Bradford said was deeper than last year’s. Jarrett O’Shaughnessy from North has 3.00 ERA and has thrown the most innings early in the season, but Root and Murray will handle most of the load along with Key and Justin Hopson from Lee’s Summit.
“We don’t have a lockdown ace,” Bradford said. “We have more depth but we just don’t have that very top level guy you can count on to shut somebody down. But we have a lot more guys who can come out and get you some quality innings.”
The Outlaws actually got off to a 10-4 start before going 1-3 in a very competitive tournament last weekend in Sedalia, where they faced defending state champ Jefferson City as well as perennial Legion powers Sedalia and Washington, Mo.
This weekend, the Outlaws are off to South Dakota for another big Legion tournament. Bradford is hoping to get his young team more prepared to compete in its district, which includes a loaded Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s team.
This season, Bradford just wants to make this newest wave stronger.
“We’re trying to get people experienced and we’re really preparing for war next year,” Bradford said. “This year Rod’s team is going to be awfully tough to beat. But if we don’t give out free bases via errors, walks and hit batters, we can play with anybody.”