It wasn't that long ago that head coach Kevin O'Neal was guiding the North Callaway varsity football team through the type of season that many of those athletes won't soon forget.
While it's true the basketball and wrestling teams saw more than a few players go down with injuries that might have been suffered while in search of gridiron glory, that's all in the past. Now the Thunderbird's are all healthy, happy and ready to help coach O'Neal bring home the Eastern Missouri Conference varsity baseball title.
"I look for Ben Bradley to have a solid year. He has signed to play baseball at State Fair and is looking forward to leading our team this year," O'Neal said. "Sam Althiser should also have a solid year on the mound. Clark Zerr is our most consistent hitter and leads our offensive attack."
Even though North Callaway did start the season last weekend with a pair of non-conference losses on the road, the beginning of the year is a great time to see where a team stands in comparison to top competition. O'Neal's real goal is to win the EMO and that starts by defeating the enemies this squad knows best.
"Montgomery County is the defending conference champions and should be very solid again this year," said O'Neal. "Should have a solid pitching staff with Ben Bradley, Sam Althiser, Chad Maupin and Skylar Morris being the main starting pitchers."
Last season the Thunderbird's went 13-8 overall, 8-2 EMO. Because the squad lost Wyatt Branson, JT Higgins, AJ Stubblefield, Tyler Barton and Matt Salisbury lost to graduation, if this squad is going to improve, not only are its new players going to have to do what's asked of them, the veterans are going to have to mesh with the incoming talent in just the right way.
"We need to develop consistency at the plate. Junior Skylar Morris will move into a starting role this year. He will be taking the place of Wyatt Branson at catcher and also get a few starts pitching this year as well," O'Neal said. "Junior Jordan Delashmutt will also be counted on to play outfield and fill a hole in the lineup.Senior Ben Bradley will move into the roll of starting pitcher and I expect to be ace of our staff."
North Callaway is at Hallsville Thursday and Blair Oaks on Monday and Van-Far comes to town on March 27 for a league game.