The field is new but the team is not as Steve Burleson opens his 34th season as Kansas City Kansas Community College baseball coach.
With 16 sophomores on a 23-man squad, Burleson will field one of his most experienced teams in history with veterans at every position. That includes six of the top eight hitters who played in 37 or more games last year and four pitchers who worked in 11 or more games.
If improving on a 21-18 Jayhawk Conference record and 32-26 overall mark isn’t incentive enough, the Blue Devils will have a brand new field on which to play, one they’ve watched come together on a day-by-day basis the past six months.
“It’s first class all the way,” says Burleson, whose teams have played at the T-Bones Community America Park for the last 10 years. ”The T-Bones have been great to us and we look forward to working with them in the future but it’s nice to not have to always take all our equipment and have it seem like every game is a road game,”
The Blue Devils top two run producers from a year ago will anchor the infield at the corners. Dean Long of Raymore-Peculiar returns at first base where he hit .350 and drove in a team high 44 runs while Poncho Amaya of J.C. Harmon is back at third after driving in 39 runs and hitting .306.
Landon Teal of Harrisonville, who started the last 10 games at shortstop and hit .222, and Brandon Witt of Raymore-Peculiar, who batted .344 in 17 starts, return to the middle infield where they are being challenged by freshmen Austin Unrein of Hays and Jesse Grace, a transfer from Henderson State who is coming off arm surgery.
Versatile Jacob Woods of Blue Springs, who led the team in hitting at .381, drove in 38 runs and earned all- conference honors; Andrew Kreiling of Raymore-Peculiar, who hit .308 as the starting centerfielder; and Trent Sullivan of Blue Valley who hit .255, headline a deep and talented outfield corps. Other possibilities include power-hitting freshman Mitchell Glessner of Blue Valley Northwest; fleet defensive specialist Lucas Norton of Liberty; and Cameron Johnson, a transfer from Maple Woods.
Caleb Waddell of Killen, Ala., returns behind the plate where he’s being challenged by two promising freshmen, Nick Gulotta of Blue Springs and Garrett McKinzie of Raymore-Peculiar. “Any one of the three could start,” says Burleson.
With the current Jayhawk Conference format of playing back-to-back Saturday-Sunday doubleheaders every weekend, pitching will as always be critical. “I think our pitching will be predictable; we’ve got a pretty good idea how close it can keep us,” says Burleson.
Heading the list are Dylan Donley, a righthander from Raymore-Peculiar who led the Blue Devils last year with a 5-4 record and 2.77 ERA; Zac Butler of Blue Springs, who was 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA; Derrick Winter of Waukee, Iowa, 3-1 with a 5.13 ERA; and Cisco Medina of Boulder, Colo., 3-0 with a 6.21 ERA.
Two other sophomores who saw limited action last season, southpaw Eli Egger of Waukee and righthander Tyler Lankford of Derby, also figure in the rotation equation along with lefthander freshman Cole Frakes of Raymore-Peculiar, while sophomore submariner Matt Dye of Liberty has been handed the job as closer.
“I like this group,” says Burleson. “It’s relatively experienced and with the exception the middle of the infield, pretty predictable and acceptable. Offensively, I think we can start some runners, hit and run and steal some bases.” Burleson will again be assisted by Matt Goldbeck, Damian Stambersky and Bill Sharp with Jeremy Bohrer team manager.
After opening with five games on the road in Texas and Oklahoma, the Blue Devils will open their new field Saturday, Feb. 23, with a doubleheader against Hutchinson but then go back on the road until March 6 when they entertain Brown Mackie and March 9-10 against Fort Scott.
Kansas City Kansas Community College
2013 Baseball Schedule
Feb. 15-18 – Texas & Oklahoma road trip.
Feb. 23 – HUTCHINSON, 1 p.m.
Feb. 26 – Crowder (1), Away, 2 p.m.
March 2-3 – Allen County*, Away, 1 p.m.
March 5 – CROWDER (1), Home, 2 p.m.
March 6 – BROWN-MACKIE, Home, 1 p.m.
March 9-10 – FORT SCOTT*, Home, 1 p.m.
March 12 – Longview (1), Away, 2 p.m.
March 16-17 – NEOSHO*, Home, 1 p.m.
March 18 – Maple Woods (1), Away, 1 p.m.
March 20 – ST. MARY JV (1), 2 p.m.
March 22-23 – Johnson County*, Away, 4 and 1 p.m.
March 26 – Rockhurst (1), Away, 3 p.m.
March 29-30 – Cowley*, Away, 1 p.m.
April 2 – LONGVIEW (1), Home, 2 p.m.
April 3 – Ottawa JV (1), Away, 3 p.m.
April 6-7 – COFFEYVILLE*, Home, 1 p.m.
April 9 – St. Mary JV (1), Away, 2 p.m.
April 13-14 – Independence*, Away, 1 p.m.
April 16 – MAPLE WOODS (1), Home, 2 p.m.
April 20-21 – LABETTE*, Home, 1 p.m.
April 22 – Ottawa JV, Away, 3 p.m.
April 26-27 – Highland*, Away, 1 p.m.
May 3-4 – First round Region VI plays (at top 4 seed).
All 7-inning doubleheaders unless designated. All single games are 9-innng contests