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by Mark Cheffey
The Marion County R-II baseball team has its sights set on winning districts this season.
With his team coming off of a 9-6 season, Coach Henry Whetson said the Mustangs have goals of playing fundamentally sound defense and offense with the hope a group of seven returning starters can lead the team into the state playoffs.
“The remaining starters finished last season with huge improvements and expect they will pick up where they left off,” Whetstone said.
Returning starters include Cooper Stotts, a senior pitcher, infielder and outfielder, who has signed to play baseball at Quincy University next year, as well as Spencer Whetstone, senior pitcher, infielder and outfielder; Root Cheney, a junior catcher and infielder; Sean Kindhart, a junior infielder, Jackson Stewart, a sophomore pitcher, infielder and outfielder, Jonathan Goodwin, a sophomore pitcher, infielder and outfielder; and Sean Martin, a sophomore outfielder.
“I anticipate Cooper and Spencer to lead the team on the hill and also on offense,” Whetstone said. “These two guys have a lot of experience, and I anticipate a great season from them as well as Root Cheney and Jackson Stewart.
In addition, the team has three other upper-classmen, senior, Kegan McIntosh and juniors, Peter Baker and Cannon Wolfe, and nine freshmen, including Riley Baldwin, Porter Britt, Mac Keilholz, Nick Kelson, Joey Lageman, Caden Stotts, James Walker, Mason Wood and Levi Wright, giving Coach Whetstone some depth and building blocks for the future.
“I have options, and for a small school, this is something that isn’t always present,” Whetstone said. “ A little of our progress in four years is evident by our interest in the baseball program.
In 2019, the Mustangs had nine players and finished with a 0-15 record.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 season, but 12 players participated in some summer baseball.
Last year, the 11-player team went 9-6, including some wins over larger schools and a 2-1 record against rival North Shelby.
The season ended with a loss to Canton in districts in a game the Mustangs led after five innings.
As a result, Whetstone said he sees early determination in his players to improve on that outcome this year.
“Practices have been very productive,” Whetstone said. “The players are goal-oriented and are very excited to start games.”
The Mustangs were scheduled to start his past Saturday at Wellsville-Middleton and continue this week at Knox County, Tuesday; and at Community, Thursday; before playing the home opener Friday against Atlanta.
The Mustangs have been assigned to Class 1, District 13 this season along with Atlanta, Bevier, Brashear, Knox County and North Shelby.
The district tournament site has yet to be announced.
3/19 at W-M ppd.
3/21 Knox County
3/24 at Community
3/28 at Bevier
4/1 at South Shelby
4/4 at Clopton
4/9 Marion Co. Tri.
4/11 at Van-Far
4/13 at Green City
4/18 at Brashear
4/21 North Shelby
5/6 at Novinger
5/9 at MMA