Entering his second season as the skipper for the Junction City Blue Jays baseball team, Patrick Stivers is ready to build off last season’s success.
Though no JC field is ready for his players to practice on at the moment, the Blue Jays trained on the football field at Al Simpler Stadium Friday afternoon. There isn’t dirt and grass, but it will do.
“It’s nice that there’s turf out here, and we aren’t playing in wet conditions,” Stivers said. “This gives us an opportunity to at least be outside and see the baseball; get some ground balls, fly balls and work on some defensive stuff. It has been a good last three or four days.”
The Blue Jays advanced all the way to the regional championship game last season, where they fell to the Wichita-Haysville Colts 9-0. JC finished the season sporting a 14-8 record, and will be returning a good bulk of last season’s roster. Stivers likes the talent on both offense and defense.
“I like them a lot; I think, offensively, we will be good,” Stivers said. “I really like the depth of our pitching staff. I think, even though we’re young at the varsity level, I still think we have guys who have played a lot of baseball and I’m excited to see them play.”
The main goal in Stivers’ mind is to get better as a baseball club every day. He feels that if the Blue Jays stay focused and keep working hard, the wins will come along with that.
The pitching ace this season will once again be senior Thane McDaniel, who has already committed to play baseball at Kansas University next season. Stivers expects another big season out of the right-hander, and acknowledged that others will have to step up in relief for the team to be successful.
At the halfway point of March, opening day is quickly approaching for the Blue Jays. They will travel to Topeka Tuesday to take on the Trojans, a week earlier than the original anticipated start date. With the quick turnaround right after spring break for Junction City High School students, Stivers is not worried about his team being ready.
“Even though we have been inside, we have been able to throw a little bit with the use of the academy,” Stivers said. “We’ve been able to get some quality work hitting-wise, so that’s been nice. Nothing compares to being outside, and today’s the first day we have seen live pitching.”
JC had success against Topeka High School last season, and Stivers recognizes that their players will be in a similar situation to the Blue Jays.
“We swept them last year; not really sure what they have this year,” Stivers said. “I know they have a new coach. But again, it’s just going to be one of those things where both teams haven’t been out much and kind of just seeing what we get and how we do. I expect our guys to go out and compete and play well, and I think we will.”