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BASEBALL PREVIEW: Experience and depth to lead the way for Neosho in 2023 season

SoMo Sports staff reports

The Neosho baseball program has two important pillars to build off of for the upcoming 2023 season.

The Wildcats finished with a 14-16 record last season in Bo Helsel’s first year at the helm of the program and are ready to improve upon that record after returning nearly every starter from a year ago while also welcoming an influx of newcomers to the varsity level.

“This team is very excited,” said Helsel, a longtime assistant before taking over last year. “We have more depth than I can remember on a Neosho team. We also have a lot of senior leadership and experience. Nearly all of our seniors have varsity-level experience on the mound and in the field. We also have a great group of juniors who will push for time. Our sophomore class is very deep and I can see a few of those players pushing for varsity time this season.”

Neosho returns six seniors to the varsity squad—SS/P River Brill, UTL/P Kael Smith (all-conference HM and all-district), UTL/P Carter Fenske, C Eli Zar (second-team all-COC, all-district), OF/P Wyatt Shadwick (all-district) and OF/P Austin Rodriguez. Also returning to the varsity lineup is junior 3B and pitcher Quenton Hughes. 

The Wildcats also add senior DH/3B Dante Igisomar and welcome two juniors—UTL/P Noah Lawson and 2B/P Colton Southern. Also joining the varsity roster this season are sophomores Hudson Williams (2B/P), Denver Welch (OF/P) and Kanten Smith (C/P) as well as freshman OF/P Brody Crane.

“In my second year at the helm of Neosho baseball, my expectations are at an all-time high,” Helsel said. “I believe this group has the guts and drive to work hard in practice everyday and go and win baseball games. We are a focused group who I am excited to be a part of.”

Brill, Hughes and Zar figure to be the top three in the lineup for Neosho, with Shadwick, Rodriguez and Crane making up the middle of the order. Smith, Igisomar (DH) and Southern project to round things out.

Neosho’s rotation sets up with Smith, Austin Rodriguez, Hughes and Fenske. Brill projects as the closer, with Shadwick, Lawson, Welch, Williams, Bostyn Patterson, Liam McInturff, Alex Rodriguez, Brodie Arthur and Brody Crane all potentially working in relief out of the pen.

“We need to hit,” Helsel said about what improvements he wants from his team over last season. “If we had averaged two more runs a game last year, we would have five to six  more wins. I know we have great depth and solid starting pitching, but we need to score runs. It doesn’t matter how our kids get on base, we just need to challenge the defense every inning for us to be successful.”

With so much varsity experience returning coupled with the youth infusement to provide depth, it’s no wonder why the expectations are high around the Wildcats’ program this spring. After struggling mightily two years ago, Neosho bounced back to improve by 10 wins and finish just below .500. If Neosho continues that trend 2023 could be a big season for the Wildcats.

“I expect us to compete for a conference and district championship,” Helsel said. “Anyone who plays in the COC knows that schedule is a gauntlet. We have the talent and experience to make a run in districts as well. We will be moving up to Class 6 this season because our school continues to grow rapidly, but I believe we are ready for that.

“Our strengths are depth and experience. We have many kids with tons of playing time at the varsity level. We went from a four-win team in 2021 to a 14-win team last season. I believe we will continue to grow on that and send our seniors out with a season to remember.”

Neosho opens the season on the road at Carl Junction in a non-conference matchup scheduled for 2 p.m. on March 18.


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