Paul Sander is ready for Senior Babe Ruth baseball in Jackson to be recognized as a solid program again.
The first-year coach will have his chance to get it done this summer, as he heads the Jackson team into a season in which they will play nearly 30 more games than last summer.
"What we're trying to do in Jackson is get Senior Babe Ruth kick-started, get it revitalized," Sander said. "Our goal this year was to increase the schedule. We wanted to play a more competitive, larger schedule.
"There are enough good kids in this area that Jackson can have both a good Legion team and a good Babe Ruth team. We want to have two good teams in Jackson."
In addition to scheduling 44 games this season compared to 15 last summer, Sander took a more aggressive approach to recruiting. Twenty-three players tried out for the team, which will feature 14 players who have little experience playing together.
"They've all played ball before, but most of them haven't played together," Sander said. "As the year goes on, we'll gel together and hopefully prove that we have a very formidable Senior Babe Ruth team in Jackson."
The team will compete in the North Division with Cape Girardeau, Charleston, Chaffee and Sikeston. The South Division includes Portageville, New Madrid, Advance and two Dexter teams. The divisional winners advance to the state tournament in July.
Jackson's squad will feature a wide range of players, including six 19-year-olds who recently completed their freshman years in college.
Considering the number of games Jackson has scheduled for this summer, Sander knows keeping his seven-man pitching staff healthy is crucial. Kyle Brown, 18, and Brandon Stearns, 19, will be the key pitchers along with younger starters Brett Groening and Sam Sander.
"The two younger guys will be counted on heavily with as many games as we're playing this year," Paul Sander said. "We're going to have to have pretty deep pitching. I think we do. It's one of our strong points."
Tyler Profilet and Trevor Thompson, both of whom played for Jackson High School in 2004, will be the team's offensive leaders.
Paul Wood and Randy Lincoln will assist Sander.
"We're looking forward to it," Sander said. "We're looking to have a good time. If nothing else, with 23 kids wanting to play this season, we've got interest."
Cape's Senior Babe Ruth team will also feature several players with little high school experience and a first-year coach.
Cape's Jake Welch and Josh Mayberry are coming off their first years in college, and the rest of the team saw limited varsity experience in the spring.
"There's a few guys who've got a lot of baseball behind them," said coach Alan Wengert. "I think with the lack of play this spring, it'll take us a while to take stride, but I've got a lot of eager kids who just want to go out and enjoy the game."
Of the team's high school players, Jacob Wengert of Notre Dame will bring the most experience to the plate, but Mayberry, Welch, Central's Tyler Bruce, Egyptian's Adam Thomas and Notre Dame's Nathan Kolda also will be counted on as offensive catalysts.
"I think we're going to be pretty sound, especially up the middle," Wengert said. "On any given game, I can put six or seven bats up to the plate and put up some runs. We don't have overpowering speed or power, so we'll have to generate runs through hitting."
Mayberry, Welch, Bruce and Thomas will see plenty of time on the mound, and Wengert thinks they'll have a stingy defense to help out.
"Defensively, I think I got some pretty solid infielders," he said. "I think we can execute and hold down the errors."
Mike Dunaway and Matt Smith will assist Wengert.
Wengert is optimistic about finishing near the top of the North Division.
"I like to think we can finish in the top four of the whole conference and have an outside chance of winning the division," he said. "I think Charleston's got a pretty good squad. They put their high school team together, and they're going to be pretty strong. Sikeston has a history of having a good baseball program down there."
Advance High School head coach Bob Moses will head Advance's first-year Senior Babe Ruth team, which features a young roster of all high school juniors and seniors.
Moses said although his players will be facing older opponents, he has no doubt his kids can hold their own.
"They'll be playing against pitchers that are 19 years old," he said, "but they've all played high school baseball and faced tough competition before."
Advance, which has about 30 games scheduled for the summer, sports a lineup which includes one Notre Dame player, four players from Bell City and 10 players from Class 1 district champion Advance. Darrell Wade and Bell City head coach Matt Asher will serve as assistant coaches.
"It's good to get the guys together with other towns and other kids," Moses said. "In the past, all of the kids from Advance have gone down and played on a Dexter team because we've never had enough kids to field our own team."
Moses has yet to evaluate all of his players, but he's confident that he'll have enough players with pitching experience to keep the mound occupied.
"The kids who can pitch are going to pitch," he said. "We'll give some kids the opportunity to throw. You can't have enough pitchers. Everybody will get to play."
Trenton Moses, Jeremy Limbaugh and Darrell Wade of Advance will be expected to carry the bulk of the offensive load. During the high school season, Wade hit around .500, while Moses and Limbaugh were both around .600.
"I know that the boys from Bell City can pitch and hit," Bob Moses said. "Our lineup from top to bottom should really be solid hitters."
The optimistic Moses said he's not completely sure what to expect yet, but he's ready to have some fun this summer and make a run for the South title.
"I just don't see any real weaknesses in our team," he said. "I like our chances, but I think it's open to anybody. From what I understand, Portageville is always real tough, and Dexter will be tough, of course. I think it's going to be a real competitive division.
"This is new ground for me," he added, "but it's really going to be fun. It's going to be a neat experience for all of us. Everyone is looking forward to it."
Sean Powderly, a 2001 Chaffee graduate and a Southeast Missouri State student, takes his first coaching position in an attempt to boost baseball at his alma mater.
"We encourage our kids to play summer ball and get all the experience they can," said Powderly, whose team will have two graduation seniors and mostly underclassmen. "We want to try get back to the winning tradition that Chaffee is used to."
Chaffee will rely on Chris Hanback and Adam Crowe for the pitching duties, while Hanback and Korey Chapman will lead the offensive attack.
"We've got a lot of talent," Powderly said "and these kids had an opportunity to play high school ball all year, so they have some experience."
Chaffee opens the season with a doubleheader 6 tonight against Jackson at Legion Field in Jackson.
(Asterisk indicates players who were in college this past year.)
Jackson -- Sam Sander, Sam LIncoln, Tommy Wood, Dallas Proffer, Ryan Watkins*, Kyle Brown, Cody Bangert, Brett Groening, Tyler Profilet*, Brandon Stearns*, Travis Niswonger*, Brad Eaton*, Trevor Thompson*, Aaron Green. (All players from Jackson)
Cape Girardeau -- Joey Williams, Oran; David Jackson, Tyler Bruce, Jake Welch*, Frank Soltys, Matthew Compas, Dylon Schweer, Scott Dunaway, Andy Billmeyer, Central; Josh Mayberry*, Shawnee, Ill.; Trey Glaus, Logan Haines, Nathan Kolda, Josh Beussink, Jacob Wengert, Notre Dame; Adam Thomas, Egyptian.
Advance -- Tyler Essner, Notre Dame; Garrett McIntyre, Cody Bailey, Clay Dover, Kerry Lasters, Bell City; Trenton Moses, Josh Bailey, Darrell Wade, Jeremy Limbaugh, James Masters, Kevin Adkins, Cody Roper, Cory Roper, Cameron Stevens, Rusty Hendricks, Advance.
Chaffee -- Cody Crowden, Delta; Chris Hanback, Michael Lee, Jeff Daugherty, Kent Courtney, Korey Chapman, Andy Hendricks, Adam Crowe, Zac McDaniel, Jerome Kluesner, Jeremy Penrose, Chaffee.