Some things never change for the Helias Crusaders — it's all about the fundamentals.
"It's old school and simplistic, we don't do any of the fancy new drills, we just do the fundamentals," Helias coach Chris Wyrick said as the Crusaders prepare to start the baseball season today at Marshall.
It start with defense and pitching. On defense, the Crusaders want the routine play to be routine when they're in the field.
"If we can do the fundamentals, we will be strong on defense," Wyrick said. "Move your feet like you're supposed to, have your hands where you're supposed to, just play catch.
"If you can do those three things alone, you're going to be ahead of the game. Kids get in trouble defensively when they try to do too much. Do the basics, do them well and see where that takes you. Make the outstanding play when you have to, but make the routine play all the time."
When it come to pitching, the Crusaders enter the season with an abundance of arms. In Monday's Jamboree, Helias was able to have nine pitchers throw an inning each.
"I've never done that before, we've always had to have one or two guys throw a couple of innings," Wyrick said. "The depth is a good problem to have."
That depth will lead to competition for innings.
"If they want to be one of the starters, when they get their chance, they're going to have to get it done," Wyrick said. "Hopefully they know if they don't, they're going to have to earn their spot back."
Zach Davidson, a senior, leads the returners on the mound. He was 5-3 in nine games, including seven starts, last season with a 2.39 ERA.
"He finally figured out he didn't have to throw hard, just let his stuff take over and he's going to get people out," Wyrick said. "When he throws strikes, it's tough for opponents to square up against him."
Bryce Bond, a senior, started four games with a 3-1 record last year. Kaleb Haley had three starters, while Dawson Meyer started once for the Crusaders.
"I had to throw some guys into the fire last year out of necessity because of injuries," Wyrick said. "That's made us deeper this season.
"We should have people available in relief or make a spot start due to a schedule change."
Trevor Austin, a junior, returns to start for his third season at shortstop for the Crusaders. He hit .466 last season with a .656 on-base percentage. Austin drove in 21 runs and scored 22 times.
"He knows he has to step his game up, even more than last year," Wyrick said.
Where Austin hits in the lineup is still to be decided.
"It's who you put in front and behind them will see if they get anything to hit," Wyrick said. "He may not get a lot to see in some games, so the guys in front of him and behind him in the lineup will have to produce."
There are a couple of other positions all but locked in.
Zach Woehr, a senior who hit .322 with a .455 on-base percentage last season, figures to be the center fielder.
"He's bigger and stronger this year, I think he can drive in some more runs if we move him down," Wyrick said.
Michael Snyder, another senior, will start at catcher after being the top reserve at the position in recent seasons.
"He knows how things are supposed to be done," Wyrick said. "He's done all the positional drills and team stuff that the starter has done.
"The varsity competition will be new to him, but hopefully he picks that up pretty quickly."
Like with the pitching staff, Wyrick hopes the competition for the other positions will make players better.
"We have a lot of guys who can play multiple positions," Wyrick said. "But you want some guys to step up and take their spot in the field and in the lineup."
At third base, Zach Paschal and Haley are competing for the starting spot. Michael Clement or Meyer could start at second, while the battle at first base includes Peyton Huddleston, Zach Wolken, Paschal and Haley.
The outfield starting spots are also in flux.
"We've got six or seven guys going for three spots," Wyrick said. "They've all had their ups and downs."
Jason Binkley, Jacob Weaver, Jason Haselhorst and Griffin Buschjost are in the mix with Woehr.
With all the defensive position questions, the lineup is also a work in progress.
"It just depends on who's hitting," Wyrick said. "It may be the first 10 games before a lineup is decided."
There are a handful of schedule changes, highlighted by a trip to the Blue and Red Tournament in Springfield. Helias will face Kickapoo, Glendale, Parkview and Hillcrest in the event. Also new are games against Borgia and Iberia and a doubleheader against St. Louis University High that will open the home schedule March 23.
Helias' district has changed. Instead of heading to Sullivan, the Crusaders will play more Mid-Missouri schools in the tournament hosted by Southern Boone. Helias has not hosted a district tournament since 2002.
The Crusaders, who have advanced to the quarterfinals the past three seasons, have the same goals every year. Win a district title, go to the Final Four, and win a state championship.
"It's been a few years since we've achieved a couple of those and it's wearing on me a little bit," Wyrick said. "That never changes. It's not an easy thing to do, you need to play well and you need some luck to go along with that.
"But we can compete with anybody in the state if we make the progress I think we can make. We're going to work hard and play hard and see what happens."