Coming off a school record 24-win season in which they reached the state title game for only the second time in school history, the Booneville Bearcat baseball team will have their work cut out for them if they have aspirations of duplicating that win total.
The schedule head coach Darby Ulmer compiled for this, his seventh year, is more brutal than in previous years and was due to get started on Monday with Class 6A Greenwood here.
While this marks the third straight year the Bearcats have scheduled the BHS graduate-led Bulldogs, the schedule also includes traditional 4A power Prairie Grove (Tuesday).
The blended conference slate includes the same schools as did the basketball team with Charleston, Cedarville and Mansfield from 3A and Waldron, Subiaco and Ozark from 4A, but Ulmer added games against possible district tournament foes Dover and Dardanelle as well.
There are also two tournaments on the slate, one at Dover, replacing a traditional appearance in an Ozark tournament, March 9-11, and another over spring break at Prairie Grove.
With the tournaments and getting all games on the schedule, advancing to the regional tournament and making a second straight state tournament appearance — following a decade absence — the Bearcats could surpass the 30-game mark for the first time ever.
Though not one on the record, obviously, the Bearcats took the field for a game last Thursday with top two hurlers senior Brady Brasher and sophomore Brandon Ulmer starting for their respective squads in the program’s annual Pink Out game.
Last year Brasher threw 47 2/3 innings over 13 games, nine as starts, and was 7-1 on the season with a 2.79 ERA. Ulmer, as a freshman, actually led the staff in innings with 48, and appearances with 16, going 6-2 with two saves. His ERA was 1.60.
Also seeing mound duty in Thursday’s game was Trent Wooldridge, who made three starts a year ago, third among returners as Jeff Dobbs, who made eight starts, graduated in May. Wooldridge was 2-0 in his five total appearances with a 3.91 ERA
Also making 11 appearances was Hayden Fennell. He made the most of them with a 4-0 record and a 2.33 ERA. Going into his fourth year as a starter this year, Fennell made his presence most felt last year at shortstop and in the leadoff postion. He hit a team high .475 with 13 doubles and
In addition to the top two pitchers, the Bearcats have starters or part-time starters returning in seven field positions.
The cleanup hitter last year, Wooldridge is center field. He hit .462 with 11 doubles and a co-leading 33 runs batted in. Wyatt Rongey was in left last year and filled the nine-hole as well as anyone, perhaps in the state, hitting .373 with 24 runs scored.
Brasher caught when he wasn’t pitching and hit .268 with 26 RBI. Carson Ray was primarily the catcher for Brasher. He hit .214 but drew 17 walks, matching Brasher and second only to Fennell’s 18.
Ulmer drove in 33 with a .367 avearge with seven doubles, three triples and two homes. Ulmer also scored 41 times. As a freshman, like Ulmer, Michael Hesson hit .261 with eight doubles and a home. He scored 22 times and drove in 22 last year.
Chandler Fritsche hit .275 in 40 at bats. Devin Davis also had five hits last year and Ian Suttles scored nine times as a courtesy or pinch runner last year.
The 17-man roster was supplemented with Doc Crowley taking the field.