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by Mark Cheffey
A strong nucleus of returning starters join a group of players hoping to earn starting spots and playing time during Coach Mark Loman’s final season as PHS baseball coach
Loman has one more shot to add to his impressive 20-year tenure at Palmyra that includes 12 district titles and nine conference championships to go along with a 291-114 record.
“It’ll be a change, but it’s going to be a good change and I’m ready for that,” said Loman, who has an overall record of 321-189 that also covers his years at Camdenton prior to coming to Palmyra.
Loman sat out a couple of years off from coaching midway through his tenure at Palmyra during which he got a taste of what life was like outside of coaching, and missed it quite a bit.
However, he said he is ready to end his coaching now.
“It’s just time. I’m at peace with it,” he said.
Loman believes he has a good group of returning starters this season, including seniors, Landyn Smith, Alex Wilson, Noland Richards, Alex Loman and Adam Goodwin, and junior, Jon Lundburg, along with Ethan Tallman, who saw some limited varsity action as a pitcher near the end of last season.
Pitching is always a major key in producing a successful season, and the Panthers has some returning hurlers, including Smith, Richards, Goodwin, Lundberg and Tallman.
“I’m hopefully optimistic we’ve got some arms and guys who can throw strikes,” said Loman, who adds senior, Hunter Wilson, who was an ineligible transfer student last season.
“We’re looking for good things out of him,” Loman said.
Some of the starting positions also have leading starting candidates, including Smith at shortstop, Richards at first base, Goodwin at third base, and Loman at catcher.
Also expected to battle for starting playing time at various positions are seniors, Alex Wilson, and Brayden Shannon, juniors, Andrew Comer and Clayton Deming, and sophomores, Cameron Ragar, Tyler Zeiger, Austin Nowell, Zeke Meyers and Rayce Ragar.
Loman’s freshmen group includes Cody Maziarka, Tyler Wilson, Brayden Pillars, Gavin Greving and Devry Buckman.
Offensively, while the team will not be as powerful of some in the past, there is some speed and athleticism, which Loman believes will go a long way.
“We’ve got some different ways to score runs, so, yes, I think we’ll be able to push some runs across,” Loman said. “We’re going to have to use a lot of different ways to score runs, but that’s okay.”
Loman sees Macon and Centralia to be the leading competition in the Clarence Cannon Conference with an up and coming South Shelby squad and young Highland and Clark County teams to watch out for.
“It will be competitive for sure,” Loman said.
Then, there is the rugged non-conference schedule that starts with Southern Boone, Elsberry and Canton, followed right behind by Quincy Notre Dame and Quincy High School.
Later there is Hallsville, Hannibal, Moberly and Liberty to deal with.
“It doesn’t get any easier all through the season,” Loman said.
Palmyra will also make a return visit to St. Louis’ Busch Stadium to play Jacksonville, April 15.
To make the game possible the team is helping sell tickets for the Cardinals’ May 1 home game against Arizona.
The tickets can be purchased from Palmyra players as well as from the school between now and April 8.
Looking back on his years coaching baseball, Loman is proud of what the players have achieved and will remember most the players and the different teams.
“The seniors of each team are dear to my heart,” Loman said. “What I’ll miss the most is being around and seeing kids get better and get to their potential. Seeing the light bulb turn on. Something clicks, and they go from a junior varsity player to and all-state player. Those are the big things that standout to me.”
And it hasn’t always been about the game for Loman either.
“The No. 1 mission of the program is to prepare kids for the future outside of baseball,” Loman said. “And, hopefully, I had an influence on some of the decisions as grown men.”
He noted he has had the honor of coaching some talented players who continued their baseball careers into college.
“There have been years where we have overachieved, and there are always some that underachieved, but it’s the memories, the good memories of the teams of the past,” Loman said.
3/19 at S.Boone(Cluster) TBA
3/22 at Elsberry 5 p.m.
3/24 at Canton 5 p.m.
3/29 QND 5 p.m.
3/31 QHS 5 p.m.
4/4 at B. Green 5 p.m.
4/5 at Macon 5 p.m.
4/9 Moberly 10 a.m.
4/11 at Unity (Ill.) 5 p.m.
4/12 Clark Co. 5 p.m.
4/14 at Monroe City 5 p.m.
4/15 Jacksonville 6 p.m.
at Busch Stadium
4/18 Hallsville 5 p.m.
4/19 at Highland 5 p.m.
4/22 at Brookfield 5 p.m.
4/28 at Centralia 5 p.m.
4/29 Hannibal 5 p.m.
5/2 Liberty (Ill.) 5 p.m.
5/5 S. Shelby 5 p.m.
5/6-7 Palmyra Slam