The Willard Tigers are poised for a big season this year as they return four All-State players: Garrett Rice (12), Cole Biellier (12), Grant Harris (12) and Ethan Thompson (12).
“We will rely on these players for consistency and productivity,” Head coach Scott McGee said.
Last year the Tigers had a record of 31-7 and went on to take third place in the Class 5 State Tournament, something they hope to improve on this season.
Willard has a total of five signees to play baseball at the collegiate level so far this school year: Garrett Rice (University of Missouri), Grant Harris (Missouri Southern University), Ethan Thompson (Missouri Southern University), Eli Stoops (Lindenwood University, 12), and Garrett Hunter (University of Central Missouri, 12).
The Tigers jumped from 82 on the National ranking list to 40 this winter, so the expectations are high for this team.
“Winning a state championship is really important,” Rice said. “All of the guys have put in a lot of effort and it’s been our main goal since we started playing together.”
Last season, Rice hit .347 with 35 runs batted in.
“We are nationally ranked 40th in the nation so that brings an extra edge to everything,” Thompson said. “Everyone wants to beat us.”
Thompson had a very high average of .359 with 30 runs batted in.
Varsity newcomers Garrett Martin (12), Dalen Stewart (11) and Kade Biellier (10) will be looking to make an immediate impact on the field.
“With 15 seniors and a couple of juniors, we will be a very veteran team,” Coach McGee said.
On this senior-stacked team, team chemistry is very important, everyone is tight-knit and close.
“Team chemistry is vitally important to what we do,” McGee said. “If we build kids that love being around each other that will be reflected on the field of play.”
After a crushing semi-final loss to Marquette in last year’s State Tournament, Willard is looking for vengeance.
Not only is the team excited for this season, but the Willard community is also.
“Our primary goal is to win the District and put ourselves in a position to return to the final four,” McGee said. “Overall, though, our goal is to continue building better people through the game of baseball.”