Bulls hone skills vs. elite talent

Friday, June 18, 2010
Missouri Bulls' Jonathan Lynch is congratulated by teammates after his two-run homer during the sixth inning of Thursday's game against the Missouri Outlaws in the SEMO Invitational in Oran, Mo. The blast tied the score at 7-7, which was the final score when play was stopped due to rain. The game was part of a 22-team tournament played at four sites in the area. Tournament play continues through Sunday. (FRED LYNCH ~ flynchsemissourian.com)

ORAN, Mo. -- The Missouri Bulls baseball team stands out from most of the other teams playing in this weekend's SEMO Invitational.

While most of the teams participating in the tournament feature players from St. Louis, Southwest Missouri or Southern Illinois, it's impossible to find a Bulls player who did not play high school baseball in Southeast Missouri this spring.

Bulls coach Mitch Wood, the Oran baseball coach, said talented players from multiple Southeast Missouri schools were considered for the first-year team.

"We definitely know what we are looking for," Wood said. "We'll go up to Perryville and we'll go all the way down to Cooter. What we are looking for are the best kids available in Southeast Missouri."

Players from nine Southeast Missouri high schools -- Cooter, Jackson, Oran, Kennett, Kelly, Woodland, Notre Dame, Sikeston and Scott City -- made the team.

Missouri Outlaws catcher Luke Baker tags out Lids Missouri Bulls baserunner Logan Dollins during the fourth inning.

"I think it's good because it shows Southeast Missouri has a good baseball program around this area," said pitcher Jamie Scholz, who recently completed his junior year at Scott City. "We have a lot of talented kids that could maybe go to college and play baseball."

Bulls first baseman Jonathan Lynch, who played baseball at Notre Dame Regional High School, got a great start Thursday to help ignite the Bulls.

Lynch was 2 for 2 with a home run and four RBIs during a pool-play game against the Missouri Outlaws, but heavy rain halted action in the bottom of the seventh and the game ended in a 7-7 tie.

"Everybody is awesome," Lynch said. "This is a great group."

Some of the players said there are notable differences between the prospect games and those in high school.

"A big difference is the umpires," pitcher Jordan Anderson of Cooter said. "[In high school] the umpires have a wide strike zone. You can throw it anywhere and they will call it. [In prospect games] the strike zone is much tighter."

The defensive skill level is another difference.

"Hitting is a whole lot different here," Anderson said. "You're always trying to hit a ball in a gap here. Playing is a whole lot better here than what it is in high school."

Ian Householder, who plays at Kelly High School, enjoys the decreased pressure this summer.

"The biggest [difference] for me was being the No. 1 pitcher as a sophomore puts a whole lot more pressure on you," Householder said. "On this team, I'm not necessarily the No. 1 pitcher or the oldest guy. The defense is a lot better and there is a lot less pressure."

Wood said there is a possibility the tryouts will expand in the future.

"We are hoping to have a bigger tryout next year," he said. "Next year we are going to have a tryout in October or maybe even earlier than that. What [this] would do is let the kids come and work through the winter a little bit."

Wood said one of the main objectives is to look for younger players during the tryouts. While there are no age restrictions, all of the players on this year's team will play high school next season.

"What we are trying to do right now is get all sophomores that are going to be juniors," Wood said.

Neil Johnson, who played for Woodland High School, has played only four games with the Bulls this season.

"I'd love to do this again next year. I love playing for the coaches," Johnson said. "My friends and everything are on this team. I wouldn't want to leave this team for anything."

The Bulls return to tournament play today when they face the Midwest Chiefs at 12:30 p.m. in Oran.

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