The Independence varsity baseball team is expecting to be very competitive in the Southwestern 4A Conference this upcoming season. The great thing about baseball in early spring training, all teams with good talent believe they have a chance at a conference title if all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. This includes no major injuries, team hits as expected, the pitching remains solid, defense is tight, team speed is well used, win the close games and the players are focused with no distractions. The Patriots by all measures appear to be a well rounded and balanced ball club.
The team has eight seniors returning who should add stability to an already talented group. Shortstop and second basemen Matthew Mangum will be a team leader who recently committed to Glenville State College. He will be supported by Bubba Comer, OF/RHP and Nathan Brown, OF who are both three year starters. Power hitting Corbin Berkovics should be a solid middle of the lineup bat, play first base and pitch from the bullpen. Kyle Devine, the teams top starter a RHP, and Jake McDaniel LHP should be very reliable out of the bullpen. Chase Rapp will most likely play second base with Mangum at shortstop.
A key player returning will be junior Noah Howie, who was named to the All-Southwestern 4A Conference team as a sophomore. He will be asked to play the outfield and perform catching duties. Other key junior players include Raja Milton, LHP, CJ Brown, OF, Ryan Mangum, shortstop/RHP, Drew Harris, RHP, and Ben Hagan, RHP.
The teams four starters in the rotation will be Devine, Hagan, Ryan Mangum and Raja Milton when he becomes available from basketball. Team speed will be a huge factor putting pressure on their opponents defense as four players run 6.7 and under 60 yard dashes. If these athletes cut the base corners as taught there will be excellent speed around the bases. The Patriots bullpen should be a big plus with Jake McDaniel, Drew Harris, Berkovics and Bubba Comer all available to come in and give Coach Daniel Cooke a lot of innings with solid options and flexibility throughout the entire season.