Blue Eagles Loaded With Upper Classmen
Magnolia High School Head Baseball Coach Dave Cisar, now in his 38th year, plans to take his Blue Eagles to a return engagement at the state championship playoffs this year. And he has behind him 22 wins from last year and his 36th sectional title.
Cisar has one of the best, pure high school athletes in Justin Fox at his disposal. Fox, who has already won the Kennedy Award for the best high school gridder, is leading Magnolia to its second Class-AA baseball title. He would like to finish his illustrious high school career with a pair of state wins and maybe two Player of the Year Awards to boot, during his senior season.
He just might be able to accomplish that with seven other seniors competing for starting positions. Return starters Jordan Moore, Derek Fruner, Traeh Keller and Drew Simmons, along with Fox, look to be a force to be reckoned with.
However, there’s more to the mix than that. These starters will be joined by fellow seniors Drew Goddard, Chase Cain, Matt Sapp, Joey Culley and Cameron Benson. Plus, there are juniors Bentley Knight and Jayson Keller, along with sophomores Kyle Eliott, Gage Deem and Ryan Walton. When you total all that, Cisar and veteran Assistant Coach Vance Ash will have the Eagles ready for another trip to Chareston in May.
It will be tough to lose players like Seth Pay, Davey Howell, Mason Rine and Landon Herrick to graduation. But, Cisar can rely on talented freshmen Zach Wilhoite, Matt Cain, Jake Starkey, Drew Keller, Andrew Smith, and Brantley Hissom to fill the void quite nicely.
Other Blue Eagles looking to see some varsity action could be Tanner Hanna, Tyler Myers, Chandler Sapp and Jayson Keller.
Fox is the clear number one starter, who will be on hand to close out games. Last year, he won nine and lost one in 57 innings, while striking out 93. With an ERA of 0.73, he hit over .400 in three seasons, while playing solid defense.
Elliott, Goddard, Chandler Sapp and Wilhoite look to help Fox with some innings on the mound.
Traeh Keller looks to be the starter behind the plate, while Goddard, Simmons, Elliott, Fox, Fruner and Matt Sapp seemj to have the inside track for the remaining infield positions. Depending on who’s pitching, Hanna will become a utility player.
In the outfield, you can pencil in Moore or Chase Cain at right, Benson at center and either Goddard or Jayson Keller in left field.
Cisar believes that there are three keys to having a successful season; defense; having great leadership on and off the field; and third is the kids working hard.
The Eagles polled at or near the top most of last season, but a late surge by Point Pleasant the past two years ended the Eagles run to Charleston.
Magnolia will begin the season reloaded and ready to battle all the way. As the season gets started, it looks like the Eagles will have a senior-ladden team at most the starting positions, but don’t be surprised to see many of the under classmen challenging the seniors for playing time.
Cisar believes baseball is an endurance contest. There will be ups and downs throughout the season, including injuries, winning streaks and rain outs. “We are not taking anything for granted,” said Cisar. “I’m excited for this group of young men. If we can play with enthusiasm and hustle and play solid defense, we will have a successful season.”
Cisar added, “A major component to having a successful season is the weather. If the weather is good, the kids will be outside practicing and playing games. But, when it’s raining, the real time hitting and game conditions are not there and it’s hard for the kids to keep their edge. It takes good hitting, good pitching and great leadership to having a very good season.”
Magnolia has a strong tradition of playing tough baseball schools, and this season is no exception. They play AAA schools Parkersburg South, Brooke, John Marshall, Wheeling Park, Robert C. Bryd, and North Marion. The Eagles also play Class-AA schools Sissonsville, Tyler Consolidated, Barnesville, River, Union Local, Oak Glen, Weir, and Lincoln. In Class-A action, they will face Wheeling Central, St Marys, Cameron, Shadyside and Valley.
The Eagles opened the season with three straight home wine against Oak Glen, Tyler Consolidated and Brooke.
The Blue Eagles will next host Wheeling Central at 5 p.m. April 6.