Hillsboro High School baseball coach Doug Dick has a welcome problem this season: What is he going to do with all of the players he has?
In a deal worked out earlier this year, an influx of 12 players from Peabody-Burns High School to complement Hillsboro’s 11 gives Dick a wealth of options and enough players to field a junior varsity squad.
Dick and assistant coaches Brian Allen and Stacey Sawyer have spent much of spring practice just trying to figure out what they have.
“Thery’e all new kids to me,” Dick said of the Peabody-Burns contingent. “We’ve been doing a lot of evaluation, trying to make sure we get a grasp of their abilities. There’s some athletic kids coming over. We’re going to have a little more depth at several positions where we haven’t had that luxury.”
Underclassmen are the overwhelming majority of Dick’s squad, but he has senior leaders from both schools.
Hillsboro’s Austin Cross will be the ace on the mound, coming on the heels of performances that earned him all-league honors last season at pitcher and first base.
“He looks good,” Dick said of the 6-6 right-hander. “He’s mature and he’s obviously going to be an imposing pitcher. He’s tall but he’s fast, deceptively fast. He has a lot of pop on the bat. He’ll be in the four hole for us, no doubt.”
Cross will see duty at first and shortstop when not on the mound.
Dick said he’s excited to see what Peabody-Burns’ Clayton Philpott brings to the team.
“He’s a really good kid,” he said. “He works hard in practice every day. It looks like he’ll be my starting third baseman. He runs the bases well, and he’s a smart, heady baseball player. He’ll definitely contribute offensively.”
Having 23 players creates competition for varsity playing time, and nowhere is that more evident than at catcher.
“That’s a big hole to fill,” Dick said. “Right now I’m working four or five kids there.”
Experience gives Tyson Reimer an edge to see the most playing time early on, Dick said. He’ll be pushed by Jorge Hanschu, Brooks Gardner, Chance Elliot, and Paul Baatrup, all of whom are also working out at other positions.
Braden Vogt appears to be a lock at shortstop, while Bryant Young and Austin Purk are battling for a spot at second base.
“It might be a doubleheader where one starts one game and one the other,” Dick said.
Gardner looks to have an advantage at first base, but is being challenged by lefty Ryan Stepanek. First is a natural position for a left-hander, Dick said.
“He was out of position last year when we had to play him at third,” he said.
Baatrup and Jacob Funk also may see playing time at first.
Kaden Kleiner will headline the outfielders’ corps in center field, Dick said.
“He’s gotten bigger and strong, he’s got a great arm, and he’s got all kinds of speed,” he said.
Ben Koop, Jaden Funk, Marcus Sanders, Reimer, and Elliot are all in the outfield mix.
Fielding a junior varsity team will be good for kids that otherwise might ride the bench, but it will make the season hectic for Dick.
“Next week we hit it pretty fast and furious,” he said. “We have five doubleheaders in a short amount of time. I’m feeling the stretch already. I’ll have to go to all of them.”