Cole Yearsley has set the bar pretty high for himself.
Yearsley, a Yorkville junior, enjoyed about as good a sophomore season on the varsity baseball diamond as one could ask for.
The lefty-swinging outfielder hit .396 with 16 extra-base hits, 27 runs batted in and 26 runs scored. He was even better in conference games, hitting .552 with a 1.000 slugging percentage.
How do you build off of that?
“Statistically, it will be harder to be better,” Yearsley said, “but growing and being more mature, I can be better. I can do the little things better, especially mentally as I’m getting older and planning on playing in college. I need to do those things right and stay mentally focused.”
That is a challenge now, as the Foxes’ season is delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic. At least the first two weeks of games are canceled, as are practices.
Assuming the season is played, Yearsley leads a Yorkville group, and a pair of junior and sophomore classes in particular, that Foxes’ coach Scott Luken is quite excited about coming off a 14-19 season.
Luken has brought up five sophomores to varsity, and could have brought up more.
“I’ll say this, this group of juniors and sophomores might be the best back-to-back classes in my 13 years at Yorkville,” Luken said. “It’s a solid group of young men. We could have brought up six to eight sophomores. That’s how talented they are.”
Luken won’t have Yorkville’s spring break trip to Alabama to prepare those youngsters, but he knows what he has in Yearsley.
Yearsley was hitting around .450 for the season until leveling off a bit the last 10 games last spring, but it was still quite a year.
“He had a phenomenal sophomore year,” Luken said. “And as I’ve told the guys, it’s hard to repeat but you do the best you can and whatever happens, happens. All you can do is control the process.”
The Foxes’ pitching staff perhaps doesn’t have one dominant arm, but it’s deep – which is useful as they join the Southwest Prairie West.
Evan May pitched to a 3.45 earned run average in 48.2 innings, most on Yorkville, as a sophomore. Kyle Mack posted a 2.85 ERA in 27 innings, and Christian Webb – Yorkville’s unofficial “Saturday starter” two years ago – is back after missing last season with an injury.
Ryan Buck and Ben Hixon are two sophomore arms Luken is high on. Senior Jack Fisher, who posted a 2.85 ERA in 19.2 innings, will challenge for starts.
“We see him as a potential starter,” Luken said. “Between him and those two sophomores, Mack, May and Webb, we’ll figure out who the starters are and the other guys go to the bullpen.”
At third base will likely be Luke Haddox, back healthy after a season-ending stress fracture in his right shin halfway through his sophomore year.
“Last year I felt I was a little lackadaisical, I couldn’t move as fast,” Haddox said. “I’ve worked on my speed and agility.”
Speed is not an issue for sophomore outfielder Hogan Schmitt, who is being considered for the leadoff spot.
“Probably the fastest kid I’ve ever coached,” Luken said. “He still needs to learn how to steal bases, but we like what we see.”
Another sophomore, Owen Ross, should fill a middle infield spot and could pitch in the future.
“He has the glove, the skills and the athleticism,” Luken said. “I’m anxious to see what he does in game situations. We have all this talent, we just don’t have varsity experience.”