Capahas to open season today

Saturday, May 31, 2003

P Craftsman Union to host Valmeyer (Ill.) in doubleheader.

By Marty Mishow ~ Southeast Missourian

It never seems to be a question of whether the Craftsman Union Capahas will field a good team.

It's usually just a matter of how strong the Capahas turn out to be.

Cape Girardeau's tradition-rich summer baseball team will begin its 37th season under manager Jess Bolen today when Valmeyer (Ill.) visits Capaha Field for a 1 p.m. doubleheader. The Capahas also will have a 1 p.m. home doubleheader Sunday against the St. Louis Printers.

Bolen, a former Capahas player, has compiled a remarkable 1,167-294 record over the past 36 seasons. Last year the Capahas went 29-11 and were 2-2 in the National Baseball Congress World Series to tie for 12th. It was their 17th consecutive NBC World Series appearance.

"I'm proud of the success we've had and the type of product we've put on the field all these years," Bolen said. "The main thing about it is, we've given a lot of kids an opportunity to play baseball. That's what's important."

Bolen said the Capahas will be fairly salty again this year, but he reserves judgment based on what kind of pitching staff he can put together.

"I think we'll be pretty good, but the bottom line is always pitching," he said. "If it pans out, then we'll be pretty decent. But if it doesn't, if you're scrambling around wondering who's going to pitch, then you're in trouble."

The Capahas' roster features a fairly veteran look with 11 players back from last season. Several more were with the club two years ago.

Bolen returns his pitching leader from 2002 in longtime Capaha Richie Phillips, who went 7-0 with a 1.96 earned-run average. Another veteran hurler is Ricky Pecaut (3-0, 1.55).

Also back is second-year pitcher Jason Chavez (6-3, 2.21), who had a strong rookie season with the Capahas and recently completed his career at Mineral Area College, along with Mark Frazier (three saves, 1.62), Jamie McAlister and Justin Simpher.

New hurlers are former Chaffee star Matt Stroup, who this season completed his career at Jefferson College; Murray State's Kyle Perry, who pitched for the Capahas two years ago and was the MVP at the recent Ohio Valley Conference Tournament when he led the Thoroughbreds to the title; Southeast Missouri State University's Jon Nourie; Nathan Baker, who originally signed with Southeast and played this year for Logan (Ill.) College; and Jonathan Payne, who plays for Williams Baptist.

"Phillips and Frazier both have sore arms right now, but when we're healthy we should have a good pitching staff," Bolen said. "Guys like Stroup, Perry, Nourie and others are real good additions for us."

Returning position players are infielder Denver Stuckey, infielder/outfielder Josh Eftink, and outfielders Steve Kress, Tom Bolen and Brian Hopkins.

Bolen is the squad's returning leader in hitting (.346) and RBIs (24); Eftink is the returning home run leader (5); Stuckey batted better than .300; and Southeast product Hopkins led the OVC in home runs while hitting better than .400 for the Indians.

Newcomers around the field are catcher Scott Reinagel, a Southeast player who was with the Capahas two years ago; infielder Dave Lawson, another Southeast product who played for the Capahas two years ago; infielders Gary Gilbert and Wade Hansford from Southeast; and infielder Lance Seasor from Morehead State, who is moving a long way to play here this summer.

Bolen said his opening-game lineup will feature Reinagel behind the plate, Lawson at first base, Seasor at second, Gilbert at shortstop, Stuckey at third, Hopkins in left field, Kress in center, Bolen in right, Eftink as the designated hitter and Chavez on the mound. Stroup is tentatively scheduled to start today's finale.

As usual, earning a berth in the NBC World Series is one of the Capahas' main goals.

"If you've ended the season there, then you've done pretty well," Bolen said.

mmishow@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 132

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