Roadrunners baseball season opens Feb. 20

Roadrunners baseball season opens Feb. 20

The baseball legacy returns to State Fair Community College for the first time since the program ended in spring 1988. The Roadrunners' season opener will be a single game at 1 p.m. Feb. 20 at Dey Field in Liberty Park Stadium in Sedalia against Evangel University JV from Springfield. Randall Eaton, SFCC Board of Trustees president, will have the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on behalf of the board.

The trustees approved the return of baseball and men's soccer and the addition of softball and women's soccer in December 2015. Baseball Head Coach Jud Kindle was hired in January 2016 to restart the program; Nick Petree is assistant coach and C.J. Webster is a volunteer assistant coach.

"It has been a challenge to recruit an entire team in a short amount of time, but we're fortunate to have resources to help prepare our team," said Kindle. "We have a nice weight room and an amazing stadium."

Coach Kindle is clear on the style of baseball his team will play. The focus is on executing bunts, hits and aggressive base running. Another team trademark will be solid defensive play.

Offensively, the team will be led by three key batters in the middle of the lineup, Tanner Cantrell, Chris De Los Santos and Andru Baxley.

"Tanner is going to be the cleanup hitter," said Kindle. "He will be our RBI producer and first baseman. We expect big things from him, Chris and Andru.

"Shortstop D.J. McNew is our best all-around athlete. He is good offensively up the middle. Zack Ehlen and Dalton Zaremba will be at the top of the lineup."

The Roadrunners starting pitchers will be Payton Rawlins, Jake McMahill and Chase Plymell. Other pitchers are fighting for the final spots in the starting rotation.

"Payton doesn't shy away from a challenge," said Assistant Coach Nick Petree. "He leads by example and does all the small things right. Jake is the more vocal leader and knows what it takes to get the job done. Chase has improved tremendously and has gone from pitching a few innings to starting."

The bullpen will be anchored by Connor Pond, Matt Philabaun and Brett Wilbanks.

"Our players are young, but they've come a long way in a short time and will continue to grow," said Petree. "They're working hard, and we're looking forward to the season and competing on every single pitch."

A tough schedule awaits the Roadrunners, including a road trip to Fort Scott Community College on Feb. 25 and then a Region 16 game against Crowder College on March 2. 

"The non-region teams that we will play are good," said Kindle. "I want to play a tough schedule; it's not about how we start the season; it's about how we finish. We have to play good teams to be the best.

"Our region has strong teams. Jefferson College, Crowder College and Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods are at the top. We hope to compete with them. I don't want to be the first-year program that finishes at the bottom; I think that would be underachieving."

Kindle sees several keys to success for his team this season."We need to stay healthy," said Kindle. "We have to work as a team and be consistent with a positive attitude and strong effort."

David Rohrbach

SFCC Athletics