Baseball team taking baby steps to state
Entering his first season at De Soto last season, Wildcat baseball coach Steve Deghand wasn't sure what to expect. But after his team nearly pulled off a big upset in sub-state play, Deghand understands the Wildcats' potential.
He was mystified following his inexperienced club's 11-6 loss to the eventual state champion Bishop Ward. In the game, De Soto led 5-3 going into the fourth inning before five errors opened the door for the Cyclones.
"How we commit nine errors and put all of those base runners on for them and we're still in the game, I'll never know," Deghand said. "Especially against a team of their caliber."
Maybe it was an aberration, or maybe it was a sign of what the 2004 season will bring. Whatever it was, the Wildcats will soon find out where they stand in the pecking order of Kansas 4A baseball.
The Wildcats open the 2004 season Tuesday with a double header at Louisburg, and Deghand hopes his team will take at least one more step toward building a traditionally strong program.
"Our ultimate goal of course is to win a state championship," Deghand said. "But I believe before you can do that, you have to be able to take smaller steps.
"First you have to be able to win more than you lose. Then you want tofinish in the upper-eschelon of your league.
"After you win your league, then you want to win a regional. Then you're in position to go to state and challenge for that championship."
Progress was made toward those goals despite the 5-14 mark in Deghand's debut season. After a slow 0-8 start to their season, the Wildcats won nearly half of their games.
With a solid nucleus of players back -- who earned tons of experience last season --Deghand and the Wildcats are a good bet to take that next step this season.
The team lost catcher Harley Mostaffa to graduation, but the rest of Deghand's 2003 squad returns.
"We're looking up," Deghand said. "I'm quite confident that we're steering in the right direction."
Back to lead off the batting order will be senior speedster Jesse Smith, who will run down fly balls at his center field position and wreak havoc for Wildcat foes on the base pads. Smith, the only Wildcat to earn enough votes to gain first-team all-conference honors a year ago, was hitting a smooth .429 going into the season-ending loss to Ward.
Smith also had an on-base percentage of .547, scored 19 runs, and knocked in eight runs. Smith wasn't caught stealing once in 12 attempts during the regular season.
Three other seniors mark the roster for Deghand this season and are expected to play crucial roles for De Soto.
Second baseman Sean Karashin was third on the team behind Mostaffa and Smith in doubles with four and led the team with 61 at bats last year. He hit .262 and scored eight runs in regular season play while also knocking in six runs.
Matt Lowe was the top pitcher for the Wildcats last season with a 4.14 ERA and pitched a team high 47.33 innings. He compiled a 3-5 record after giving up 28 earned runs a year ago and striking out 29 batters.
Lowe was also smooth at the plate as was evident by his .321 batting average. He pounded out 18 hits and scored eight runs while knocking in seven more base runners.
Chris Peterson will be called on for utility duty again this season. His primary job will be to fill in the position vacated by that game's starting pitcher.
Junior Leif Goleman (pitcher/outfield) will be called on to equal or better the numbers he put up last year at the plate and on the mound.
Goleman returns with the second highest batting average from a year ago. He hit .388 with seven runs batted in and 11 runs scored. He also produced a 7.99 era when on the mound and put together a 2-5 record.
Goleman gave up 43 earned runs in 37.67 innings of action during the regular season. He allowed 69 hits while also striking out 20 batters and walking 17 more.
Troy Gower (catcher/outfield) will challenge for Mostaffa's position at catcher this season. He hit .282 last year in 39 at bats and knocked in seven runs. He scored five runs a year ago.
Hunter Noe (pitcher/shortstop) carried the team's second-best earned run average a year ago at 5.86. He allowed 12 earned runs in 14.34 innings of action and struck out four batters.
The junior also had 10 runs batted in and scored seven times while hitting .246. He pounded out 14 hits and stole six bases in six attempts.
Juniors Kyle Bray (infield/outfield), Danny Doherty (outfield) and Jacob Rupe (utility/third base), and sophomores Austin Bills (catcher/outfield) and Taylor Burnett (pitcher/infield) will all step into key roles on the varsity this season.
Bray, Doherty and Rupe all earned some playing time last season.