Big year on deck? Jackson returns experience from 17-7 squad
Monday, March 21, 2005
While SEMO Conference powers Sikeston and Notre Dame lost several key seniors, Jackson's baseball team brought back nearly its entire starting nine and could be one of the team's to beat around the area.
The Indians had a strong season under first-year coach Rex Crosnoe last season, finishing 17-7. Now with seven starters returning and a largely senior group the Indians will look to take their game to another level and make a run at a district title and beyond.
Crosnoe said Jackson's senior leadership should give the team an edge this season.
"When you have seven seniors that will be starting, it's kind of their time. Now they have to step up to the plate," he said. "They help with the coaching of the players, which makes them even better players."
Along with that leadership, having such a veteran group creates cohesiveness. Many of the Indians' seniors played together during the summer on Jackson's American Legion team, as did many of the younger players.
"That element of just playing together; I can tell such a difference this year," Crosnoe said.
Leading that group is senior Jason Meystedt, one of the area's top two-way threats. Meystedt is a dangerous hitter from the left side and is one of the top pitchers in the area.
Meystedt is teamed on the mound with fellow senior Tyler Beussink, who also had strong campaigns both with the bat and on the mound.
"They were a good 1-2 punch last year," Crosnoe said of Meystedt and Beussink. "That's the thing, with all our starters being seniors, we expect a lot out of them, and they expect a lot out of themselves."
Joel Penrod and Kyle Brown also pitched for the Indians last season, with Brown acting as the team's closer. Senior Brandon Gendron will also likely see time on the mound.
"Hopefully Gendron and Penrod will step up and help us out," Meystedt said.
While the Indians' pitching staff appears to be solid, Jackson's lineup will likely be a strength. Jackson has one of the top leadoff hitters in senior Derrick Biri, who was among the area leaders in stolen bases last season. Gendron, Zach Brazer, Trey Busch, Beussink and Rex Meyr all will be looked upon to put up solid numbers for the Indians.
"Our hitters all the way down through the lineup, first through ninth we're solid," Meystedt said. "Pitchers are going to have to pitch a good game."
One area the Indians excelled in last season was base running. Whether it was stealing a base or taking advantage of mistakes by opposing defenses, the Indians showed strong skills.
"That's stuff we try to work on in practice," Crosnoe said. "Defensively, if a team tries to do it to us, and offensively."
One thing the Indians will try to work on this year is trying to finish strong. After a strong regular season, the Indians fell in the district championship game.
Meystedt said the team failed to peak late in the season.
"Last year, during the [regular] season we did play well," Meystedt said. "District came around and we slacked off -- got into a slump. We should have done a lot better in district."