Preseason High School Preview: Willard
March 6, 2023
The Missouri high school baseball season is set to kick off shortly, with ‘Opening Day’ set for March 17th. Over the next two weeks, leading up to opening day, we’ll be publishing our team previews ahead of the 2023 spring season, touching on programs spanning all state classifications.
Perennially, we’ve submitted a Preseason Questionnaire to high school head coaches across the entire state. Their responses have been flooding in and we’re using the detailed insight they’ve provided in our team-by-team preseason analysis.
Our 2023 preseason coverage continues today.
2022 Record: 33-8
Conference: Central Ozarks
Head Coach: Scott McGee
Cooper Wilken, RHP, 2023 (Evangel commit)
Wilken dominated last season for the Tigers, posting an 11-0 record while serving as the team’s staff ace. He’s earned all-state honors twice now, including as an underclassman as a sophomore, and bringing him back to anchor this pitching staff brings a certain sense of familiarity to this group. They’ll have a chance to win each game Wilken toes the rubber, as has become the norm since he’s been up at the varsity level.
64 - The number of games this Willard program has won over the last two high school seasons. Several members of this year’s team have been a part of this successful run that included a state title in 2021, and a third place finish last year.
There’s no denying that Willard has been one of the premier teams at the 5A level over the last handful of seasons. As highlighted above, the Tigers took home the state championship in 2021, and they made a repeat trip to Ozark last season, taking home third place honors to cap a 33-win season.
Several of the key pieces to each of those past teams are back in 2023, as the Tigers return eight position players that started for them last spring. A pair of Missouri Southern commits, OF Owen Bushnell (2023) and C Kyden McMain (2023), return plenty of success offensively between the two. Bushnell bashed seven home runs last spring, batting .398 in the process and bringing home 42 runs on his own. McMain serves as this team’s backstop and, aside from his duties defensively, posted a .356 batting average last spring over 101 at-bats, plating 34 runs and swiping 20 bags.
The offense extends past that pairing, however. INF Landon Moore (2024) broke several school records as a sophomore last year, stealing 18 bases to go along with twice as many walks (37) as strikeouts (16) and a .347 batting average. Aside from Bushnell, OF Klayton Kiser (2023; Drury commit) paced the Tigers in batting average (.371), securing 43 hits over 116 at-bats while drawing more walks (25) than strikeouts (19). 1B Cooper Hampton (2023) brings more thump to the table, doubling eight times and driving in 27 runs over 96 at-bats in 2022, while OF Kyle Beeman (2023) and INF Drew Quinlan (2024) are two more returners from last year’s squad that add more depth and experience to this already loaded lineup.
On the mound, Willard will be led by the aforementioned Wilken, but finding a set complement to their star senior arm is a question mark at the moment. There’s plenty of talent to pick from, including LHP Christopher Massey (2023; Central Missouri). The physical senior southpaw sits in the mid-to-upper-80s with his fastball, and we’ve even heard reports he’s climbed up into the low-90s as of late. He logged 29 innings for Willard last spring, punching out 44 batters with a 3.38 ERA. Another arm to note is LHP Hayden Larson (2024), as the uncommitted junior southpaw returns after a successful sophomore campaign where he posted a 2.67 ERA over 26 ⅔ innings, striking out 32. Keep an eye on newcomer RHP Russell Roweton (2024), as he’s a multi-sport athlete with a power arm that could bring an impact to this staff as well.
As has become the norm over the last few seasons, Willard enters this upcoming season as one of the favorites at the 5A classification. They return numerous players that have now been a part of two trips to the state playoffs, and they’re supplementing that core with a talented bunch of newcomers that fit needs.
Follow along @PBRMissouri for complete coverage of the 2023 high school season.