Chaffee faces obstacles in its attempt to repeat

Friday, May 31, 2002

Things have changed with the Chaffee American Legion baseball team, but the squad still has high hopes for the summer.

Likewise, Cape Girardeau Ford & Sons and Jackson also have expectations as the senior American Legion season approaches.

The three squads compete in District 14, won by Chaffee last year after Dunklin County captured the previous five titles. Chaffee went on to win the state championship before being eliminated in the regional semifinal, but the squad -- which has a new manager -- returns no players from that group.

Rounding out the seven-team district are Sikeston, Charleston and Stoddard County. Poplar Bluff will not compete this year.

Jackson will host Charleston tonight to open the season; Cape begins its schedule Saturday night at Ballwin; and Chaffee will play Tuesday night at Dunklin County.

District events will feature one nine-inning game this year instead of two seven-inning contests, the norm the past few seasons.

A look at the three area teams:

Cape Girardeau

Ford & Sons had a solid first season under manager Tom Reinagel, going 27-22 and 19-9 in district games, which tied for third place. Cape finished third in the district tournament.

Although few players return, Reinagel said he expects to field a solid team with pitching depth still uncertain.

"We can be pretty good," Reinagel said. "Pitching will be the key to our season. Some kids will have to step up and come through."

Ford & Sons will consist almost entirely of players from Central and Notre Dame.

From Central are John Thies, Mark Wittenborn, Chris Conrad, Aaron Dohogne, Josh Ford, Seth Hudson and Dustin McKinnis. Notre Dame, which reached this week's Class 2A Final Four, provides Jeff Brosey, Kyle Diveley, Wayne Essner, Shane Kistner, Dustin Klipfel, Dustin Tatum, Timmy Wencewicz and Matt Wulfers.

Rounding out the squad is Kelly's Tyler Schlosser.

Kistner, Wencewicz and Schlosser were among Ford & Sons' top hitters last summer.

The pitching staff will feature Thies, Wittenborn, Brosey, Essner, Wulfers, Hudson, Schlosser and others.

Cape's first home game will be Monday against Jackson. Ford & Sons will also host the zone tournament.

Veteran coach Bill Bohnert returns to assist Reinagel, along with Cory Crosnoe and Jeff Graviett. Graviett managed Chaffee's program the past few years.

Jackson

Second-year manager Gerald Adams has high hopes for his team, which has several players off the Jackson High School squad that this season won its first district title in 10 years.

Adams is enthused by the addition of Mark Lewis, a former Southeast Missouri State University assistant coach who will handle most of the on-field duties, along with his brother, Jamie, and former Southeast player Kenny Gaebler.

"We're pretty optimistic," Adams said. "Mark is an excellent teacher with a wealth of baseball experience, and it looks like we've got a good group that is interested in working hard.

"This bunch has always hit the ball and it looks like we've got more pitching than in the past. I think we can have a good team."

Jackson went 12-20 and 10-18 in the district last year. Headlining the team are 11 players from Jackson High School: Bryan Austin, Michael Birk, Jake Carter, Matt Gordon, Austin McDowell, Jason Owen, Josh Parham, Dusty Roberts, Josh Snell, Tim Stearns and Trevor Thompson.

Other players are Notre Dame's Keith Seyer, Leopold's Josh Van de Ven, Scott City's Tyler Ward and Illinois' Tim Davis (Shawnee) and Brennan Gibson (Egyptian).

McDowell and Parham were Jackson High School's top pitchers this year. They'll lead the mound staff, along with Davis, Gibson, Van de Ven, Austin, Roberts and Owen.

Chaffee

Chaffee went 92-20 in an amazing two-year run, including 53-13 last year on the way to district and state titles. Not only have all the players moved on, but so has Graviett. Mitch Wood, the coach of Oran High School's program, will take over.

"I'm excited, but we lost everybody off that great team," Wood said. "We're all young with no high school seniors, so we'll be a different kind of team.

"We've been left a pretty good tradition and hopefully we can live up to it. We can be pretty solid. All these kids have done pretty good in Junior Legion and I expect them to continue to get better."

Chaffee, which was 23-5 in the district last year, has 15 players, including five from Oran High School: Joey Bickings, Tyler Cookson, Trey Graviett, Tyler Nelson and Ryne Wood.

Rounding out the squad are Scott City's Jordan Comer, Stephen Posey and Jason Umfleet; Chaffee's Zac Horman; Advance's Jacob Daniel and Eric O'Hare; Kelly's Major Burger, Kent Deason and Kendal Deason; and Woodland's Alex VanGennip.

The pitching staff figures to be solid, with Graviett, Wood, Horman, O'Hare, Umfleet and Posey leading the way.

mmishow@semissourian.com

(573) 335-6611, extension 174

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