Helias is about to start the baseball season with a trip to Florida

As always, it’s pitching and defending for the Helias Crusaders.

Maybe even more this year.

“It has to be more of both,” Helias baseball coach Chris Wyrick said as the Crusaders prepare to open the season with a pair of games today during a trip to Florida.

“The defense is going to have to be strong because of where we play and the teams we face. With the quality of our schedule, we’re not going to eliminate a lot of guys. We’re going to have to do the routine games, you can throw the big games once in a while, but we have to do the routine games to be successful.

The Crusaders plan to have up to eight pitchers to record significant innings this season.

“It’s rare, I don’t think I’ve ever had eight with confidence,” Wyrick said.

Sam Wyrick, a junior right-hander, and senior left-hander Nate Roark are among Helias’ top starting pitchers. They will take the starting honors today when the Crusaders take on King’s Edgehill of Nova Scotia, Canada and Thomas Jefferson of Pennsylvania.

“We’ll go from there for the rest of the trip, depending on who we need to use as relief,” Chris Wyrick said.

The other six potential pitchers for the Crusaders are seniors Cole Scheulen, David Hofherr and Drew Miller, as well as juniors Trey Rice, Myles Gresham and Thorn Phillips.

“(Rice) can take out right-handers and left-handers because his ball moves so much,” Wyrick said. “We think when (Cole) is healthy he can come out and do good things for us. And Myles is a strike thrower.

Hofherr returns to start at catcher and will retain one of the spots in the middle of the batting order.

“He’s going to have to drive guys,” Wyrick said.

Sophomore Ben Miller is Hofherr’s replacement.

“We’re confident Ben can go out there and do a great job behind the plate,” Wyrick said. “Having two good receivers is a luxury, we will do our best to find them innings.”

Drew Miller will start at first base, with Gresham retaining the spot at second and Sam Wyrick starting at shortstop.

Third base is a battle between junior Landon King and senior Patrick Baker.

When Sam Wyrick throws, Gresham will move to shortstop, with King or Brock Brenneke starting at second. King and Brenneke will be second when Gresham throws as well.

“It’s not ideal to have your infielders moving around like that, but when some of your best pitchers are playing out there, you have to use them,” Wyrick said.

Luke Cavender, a senior, will start in center field.

“He’s a really good outfielder who can pick it up with a good arm,” Wyrick said.

The corner outfield spots will be shared by a combination of juniors Maddox Alfutis, Zach Wieberg and Phillips.

“If you hit, you’ll be in the lineup,” Wyrick said. “You can’t sit a guy who can swing it.”

The batting order is still in play, with Drew Miller potentially retaining the top spot.

“He draws a lot of steps, he goes up on base,” Wyrick said.

Sam Wyrick thinks he will keep the No. 2 spot, followed by Hofherr, Roark and Cavender.

The rest of the order will be determined by who swings the bat the best at that time.

“It can be fluid all year, we can have 29 different lineups with the same guys in different locations,” Chris Wyrick said. “If a guy is hot, if a guy is struggling.

“Some guys aren’t comfortable hitting high, they need to hit a little lower because they can get more pitches than they can handle.”

Helias is expected to play five games in three days in Baseball City, Fla., with the option of adding a sixth.

“It’s a new look at the calendar,” Wyrick said. “It’s good to play someone you don’t know, they don’t know you.”

It’s the start of a 29-game schedule for the Crusaders. That’s less than a lot of teams because Missouri allows a total of 36 before districts start.

“You can get better in games, but you can get better in the game by practicing,” Wyrick said. “We are going to use these seven days when we are not playing to improve.

“We have to be fundamentally strong, outdo and outdo people.”

In a scheduling oddity, Helias won’t be in a tournament during the regular season. The Crusaders can’t participate in the Jay Baseball Classic because it’s Easter weekend and the Rock Bridge tournament has fallen on a busy part of the schedule.

“I wish we were one somewhere, but if it’s not beneficial to you in terms of your pitching schedule or the big games coming up, you probably shouldn’t be there,” Wyrick said.

But with cities like Carthage, Ozark, Excelsior Springs, Oak Park and Springfield Catholic on the schedule, Helias should be tested regularly. Then there are the game challenges against Fatima and Blair Oaks, as well as the Central Missouri Activities Conference contests.

“The conference will be tougher than nails, there are no nights off,” Wyrick said. “We will have to be ready to play every day or it could get difficult. We have to accept that we have to come to the park every game ready to play, ready to give ourselves a chance to succeed.

Helias will open their home program on Friday against Ozark at the American Legion Post 5 Sports Complex. The first pitch is set for 4:30 p.m.


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