Baseball Tigers look to flourish under new coach

Theo Tate

The Wellsville-Middletown baseball team began its 2021 season on March 22 with a 14-2 loss to New Haven. Pictured, front row from left, are Trenton Schultz, Frankie Bush, Kaleb Turner, Keaton Mayes, Wyatt Cassidy, Bekah Sewell, CJ Curd and Kennedy Rentfro. Back row, from left, are Assistant Coach Justin Caldwell, Jacob Hollensteiner, Keaton Marshall, Jared Brinegar, Mason Guzy, Dylan Alsop, Layton Maskey, Head Coach Brandon Moeller. Not pictured are Clayton Ebers, AJ Sherwood, Kaleb Peak, Lucas Peak and Layton Maskey.  THEO TATE PHOTO

The Wellsville-Middletown baseball team already has two district championship plaques in its trophy case.

Brandon Moeller hopes his team will celebrate a third district crown in his first year as W-M coach.

“We’re really looking at districts as a measure of success,” Moeller said. “I think we have a good chance of winning districts this year.”

Moeller replaced Earl Burton as the Tigers’ head coach this spring. A year ago, he was named the team’s assistant coach, but the 2020 season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Moeller, a 2014 Warrenton graduate, was hired to take over head coaching duties for the Tigers in the 2021 season after Burton decided to step down.

“It was a good situation to step into,” Moeller said.

Moeller takes over a program that has enjoyed success the last several years. The Tigers won a district title and placed second in Class 1 in 2017. Two years later, they captured another district crown.

“There’s a lot of success here,” Moeller said. “That’s a good thing. The kids are used to success.”

Wyatt Cassidy, Clayton Ebers, Jacob Hollensteiner, Layton Maskey, Kennedy Rentfro, Bekah Sewell, Jared Brinegar and Trenton Schultz make up the senior class. Juniors Lucas Peak, Kaleb Turner and Keaton Mayes, sophomores Dylan Alsop, CJ Curd, Mason Guzy, Keaton Marshall and Kaleb Peak and freshmen Frankie Bush and AJ Sherwood round out the squad.

Moeller also works as an assistant coach for the boys basketball team. He missed the first week of baseball practice because the boys basketball team was competing in the sectional and quarterfinal rounds.

Then, the W-M school district suspended in-person learning due to a large number of quarantines, forcing the baseball team to have virtual practices for a week.

“It’s been an interesting start,” Moeller said.

Moeller’s first season as W-M coach got off to a rough start as the Tigers lost 14-2 to New Haven in their season opener on March 22 at home. It was the Tigers’ first game since May 22, 2019, when they lost to St. Elizabeth 5-4 in a Class 1 state quarterfinal game.

“This was the first live pitching that some of these kids have seen for over a year,” Moeller said. “We haven’t been on the field in practice and we didn’t play last year, so we’re trying to rush some of these kids’ developments while still being competitive. It’s tough to balance that.”

W-M stole six bases and three of its pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts. Alsop had two hits and finished with nine strikeouts.

“We had some positives, but there are definitely some things we have to work on,” Moeller said.

The Tigers are looking to finish with their third winning season in four years. W-M finished 13-5 in 2019.

“Playing in the EMO (Eastern Missouri Conference) is always a challenge for a school our size,” Moeller said. “Once we get some practices, I feel like we can compete with those teams. I was very encouraged by our pitchers with their success. Getting strikeouts against New Haven was great. Our top of the order can compete with anybody, too. We have to get some more at bats. We have to get more practices.”  


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