A lot of depth in Creston baseball

May 10—With only one starter from last season missing from the lineup and seven seniors this year, the Creston baseball team is hoping to turn the corner this season.

"I'm just looking for them to execute at a high level," Coach Brandon Phipps said. "These seniors have been playing varsity baseball for three years. We will be leaning on our senior class and looking for them to compete hard. There's now an expectation to win games."

A season ago, the Panthers finished 17-20 and 6-14 in the Hawkeye 10. Lewis Central and Harlan led the conference while the Panthers placed eighth.

"In the Hawkeye 10, LC and Harlan are going to be the front runners like normal," Phipps said. "With that being said, Glenwood has a good team coming back. I could see Saint Albert and Clarinda having a good team."

Even with the stiff competition, Phipps has high goals for the Panthers. "We want to try to be at the top of the conference. That's a realistic goal," he said. "But it's easier said than done. Last year we were a game or two away. We have ambitions to be competing for the top of the conference, 100%."

With the primary pitching staff returning from a year ago, the Panthers have been focused on their offense in the offseason.

"Offensively we had a huge emphasis on our hitting philosophy," Phipps said. "Two strike hitting, base running — we've had a huge emphasis on scoring runs."

This season, fans will see senior Cael Turner, first team all-conference pitcher and infielder, return to the mound and shortstop.

Other pitchers include honorable mention all-conference junior Parker Varner, Dylan Hoepker, Milo Staver, McCoy Haines, Tanner Ray and Tom Mikkelsen.

Mikkelsen will take the lead behind the plate with Staver coming in to catch when necessary.

Sam Henry will remain the point at first base with junior Mattias Schultes serving as backup.

"The rotation is going to dictate a lot," Phipps said. "We can move Sam Henry or Cael Turner to the outfield. It depends on who has the hot bats. We have enough guys that we can move around."

Second base will stay the same with Hoepker taking the lead and Tommy Sand subbing in. A change at third this year sends Haines to centerfield and puts Varner as the main third baseman. Quinten Fuller and Camden Smith will fill in depending on the rotation.

Gavin Millslagle and Tyler Riley will continue to cover outfield with rotations of Mikkelsen, Staver and Brayden Schoon.

While the junior and senior class will bring a lot of experience, Phipps said freshmen Ray and Mikkelsen will see a lot of varsity playing time this season.

With their first game Monday against Carlisle, the season will overlap with the track and field postseason. Several of the varsity starters may miss games during the first week due to this conflict.

"It's just next guy in," Phipps said. "Someone's going to have to prove themselves. It gives kids opportunities to execute and show us who's going to give us the best shot to make a run."