High expectations trail senior-laden Pioneers squad into 2013

Team: Leavenworth baseball

Last year's record: 12-9

Coach: Joe Allison

Coach's record: fifth year as head coach, overall record 33–55

Key returnees:
* Judson Cole, senior shortstop/pitcher; 4-1, 2.97 ERA in 2012 and hit .381, 14 RBIs with 11 stolen bases

* James Gladieux, junior infielder/pitcher; 4-3, 2.72 ERA last season while hitting .340 and 11 RBIs

* Eli Keppler, senior outfielder/second baseman; batted .438, .620 on-base percentage and scored 25 runs last year

* Michael Baillergeon, senior outfielder; hit .407 and 17 RBIs as a junior

* Billy Harrah, senior third baseman/pitcher; third on 2012 squad in innings pitched and scored 19 runs

* Sam Miller, junior first basemen; 13 runs scored, six doubles and 10 RBIs last season

Newcomers to watch:
* Zach Harris, senior catcher; the Lansing transfer hit .525 last year with 31 RBIs

* Jose Cardenas, junior outfielder/pitcher

* Dustin Zink, junior catcher/pitcher

* Devin Hall, junior outfielder/pitcher

* Danial Wilson, junior outfielder/pitcher

* Kyle Pangracs, junior outfielder/pitcher

Team Outlook: STRENGTHS — A lot of talent is coming back for the Pioneers this season.
The squad returns seven starters including two all-league, all-state outfielders, an all-league shortstop and its three top pitchers.

Thus, experienced players with high-end ability will dot the LV lineup, as the team's average batting percentage hovers at .330 heading into the season. Defensively, Leavenworth has few holes to fill.

"Our senior class is as talented as it has ever been," Allison said, "with three seniors that have started since they were freshmen. The best news is that we have more kids out playing baseball then there has been in the last 10 years. Our strength and numbers will finally be an asset."

WEAKNESSES — While multiple assets do return for the Pioneers, the squad did lose all-state catcher JT Core.

That hole will be filled by Lansing catcher Zach Harris, who will have to adjust to a new slate of conference foes.

Allison also highlighted last year's "mid-season slump" offensively, which he hopes to avoid this year.

"With a tougher schedule this year, we need to stay consistent and grind out runs, while playing solid defense," he said.

Big games: Versus Savanah, Mo. March 21; At Lansing April 8; Versus Lee's Summit West in the River City Classic Tournament April 19; Versus Olathe North May 4 at Community America Ballpark

Coach says: "This should be a fun year for us. Our numbers are up, our talent is the best it's been and we have a great senior group.

"I've coached a few of these boys going on seven years now and I am going to enjoy their final seasons as Pioneers. We expect to compete for a league and regional title this year, with hopes of putting ourselves in position to host our first ever regional tournament.

"High expectations must be accompanied by hard work and dedication, and our players are up to the task."