So far this school year, Maryville has won a state championship in football and a district title in boys basketball.
With one more season remaining, it's now the Hound baseball team's turn to keep the school's run of success in primary boys sports going.
There's a strong belief this collection of accomplished, multi-sport athletes will come through.
The Spoohounds have six starters back, five of which were all-conference performers on Maryville's undefeated state championship football team.
Senior Jonathan Baker is the lynchpin of the group, having quarterbacked the Hounds in football at a first team all-state level and led the Hound basketball team in scoring.
"These kids are used to winning," said Maryville first-year head baseball coach Matt Houchin, an assistant under Tom Scarbrough for the past three years. "They know how to win. Coach (Matt Webb) always talks about the process and getting to that point. That's the best advice to give to them. They have a great work ethic and it's shown all year long in everything they've done."
The Hounds are coming off their second straight 9-7 season, one that ended with a fourth straight loss to Lafayette in the first round of districts.
Thankfully, the Hounds no longer have to worry about running into the likes of Lafayette, Benton, Smithville or Savannah in districts anymore due to the state's decision to spread baseball into five classes.
The Hounds remained in Class 3, while the bigger MEC schools moved up to Class 4.
Now grouped with schools that have smaller enrollments, Maryville should have an easier time advancing in district play, although Houchin isn't so sure at this point.
"Hopefully, we can build momentum through the season so we are ready for districts," said Houchin. "I know there's still going to be some tough teams there. Last year, Lawson played Benton fairly tough. You know how it is with pitching. If they got one guy or two, they can still do some damage."
Maryville must first concern itself with the regular season, and the first three games will give them a pretty good gauge of where they stand in the MEC pecking order.
The Hounds open up with Savannah—the third place finisher in Class 3 last year— today at 4:30 p.m.
That's followed by games with Benton and Lafayette, two of the other top teams in the MEC over the past few years.
"I guess you know where you are right out of the gate," said Houchin. "You know exactly what you're going to get. You're going to get quality opponents. You got to bring your 'A' game. You win a few of those, you just build momentum throughout the season. If things don't go your way, you got to figure out what's wrong and move on from there. It's a good foundation for us to start there."
It might take the Hounds a few games to get going after spending a large portion of preseason practice inside the gymnasium.
This has limited the amount of defensive and baserunning work they've been able to get in. In spite of that, Houchin has been impressed with what he's seen thus far.
"The work ethic has been awesome," said Houchin. "We're getting in and getting after it. I think as long as we keep that drive and keep that focus then we'll be okay."
The Hounds have 36 players out this year, freshman through seniors.
They graduated only four off last year's team, although one of those was second team all-state catcher
Payton Scarbrough whose now in his freshman year with Missouri Western. Two others were honorable All-MEC selections Derek Gadbois and Charlie Coleman.
Baker, a first-team All-MEC shortstop, heads up a group of returners that also includes senior Eric Sigman, senior Ridge Yount, senior Shane Owens, senior Lane Hermelink, second team All-MEC senior outfielder Tyler Tripp and junior Jose Mendoza.
"I think we're going to be pretty balanced," said Houchin. "I like our hitting. I think everything is coming together very nicely. If they're willing to work on some things defensively, I think we'll be pretty solid and find some pitching in there."
As of last week, Houchin said his opening day lineup was still up in the air, but plans to hit either Baker or Tripp in the No. 3 hole.
Infield defense should be a strength with Baker returning at short, Mendoza at second and Owens at first. Yount will either play third base or remain in the outfield.
On the mound, Maryville will attempt to employ a true pitching staff this year with Baker, Tripp, Owens and sophomore Mitchell Worthington all in line to take the ball at some point. Baker has been Maryville's No. 1 or No. 2 starter each of the past two seasons, while Tripp was used last year as a reliever.
"Hopefully, we can get some kind of starting rotation going and then kind of see where we go from there," said Houchin.
Maryville's schedule contains 12 regular season games and two tournaments.
The Hounds end the season with three straight on the road before districts May 11-16 in St. Joseph.
Houchin points to Lafayette as the team to beat in the MEC and says district foe LeBlond is much improved.
By Joey Falkoff firstname.lastname@example.org
The Maryville Daily Forum - Maryville, MO
By Joey Falkoff email@example.com
Updated Mar. 18, 2013 @ 8:08 pm
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