DHS Wildcats off to a roaring start
A new head coach hopes to bring a new attitude to the DeSoto Wildcats varsity baseball team.
DeSoto Coach Michael Runyon will try to build a solid program in his first season as the Wildcats' coach.
"I want to start to establish a program here," Runyon said, "I want everyone in the preseason to talk about DeSoto baseball."
Runyon, who coached the freshman team last year and also spent time as an assistant coach at Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kan., has four seniors on the roster this season. However, only two of them, outfielder/pitcher Danny Blades and catcher Ronnie Kraus, played for the Wildcats varsity squad last season.
"We are not necessarily young but we are inexperienced at the varsity level," Runyon said, "Ronnie and Danny will contribute a lot for this team."
The other two seniors on the roster are outfielder Tracy Peters and first baseman Doug Wittebort.
Runyon said the Wildcats expect to have a solid pitching rotation which will include Blades, junior Jake Miller, multi-sport sophomore Greg Francis, and sophomore Harley Mustaffa. Miller and juniors Willie Meier and Todd Manson will be members of the Wildcats bullpen this season.
On the hitting side of the ball, Runyon said he would look to Blades, Kraus, Manson, and Miller among others to provide offensive firepower.
With only a few practices under their belts, the coach said he likes what he has his players have already shown him.
"Offensively, we are balanced top to bottom and I like the way we are swinging the bats," Runyon said, "I don't see anyone standing out in the lineup but I don't see any weaknesses either."
Last season, DeSoto finished 11-11 but Runyon said that has little to do with this year's team. With the opening of Mill Valley High School, many of last year's players will be this year's foes.
The Wildcats will face their old teammates April 26 at the Johnson County 3 and 2 Field in Lenexa. Runyon said the split will bring additional meaning to the inaugural baseball game between the two schools.
"Mill Valley is a good friendly rivalry because we both know each other so well," Runyon said.
While the DeSoto-Mill Valley rivalry is building quickly, the Wildcats will focus their attention on another team of Wildcats: Louisburg High School.
DeSoto will face Louisburg in the season opener on Tuesday, March 27, in Lenexa.
They will then travel to Spring Hill for a March 30 contest before the beginning of Kaw Valley League play.
"Spring Hill is a perennial state tournament team," Runyon said. "In the Kaw Valley League, you definitely have to look at Piper who hasn't lost a game in two years of league play. Basehor-Linwood and Tonganoxie will also be good."
Despite the strong competition that his team will be facing, Runyon is optimistic about DeSoto's chances of rising to the top of the Kaw Valley League. He said the Wildcats will play every game with only one objective in mind.
"Our goal is to win the league and win the state tournament," Runyon said.