Seeking a return to the National Baseball Congress World Series, the 2008 Newton Rebels have made some changes.Newton was 24-6 in league play last year. The team was 31-17 overall, 2-2 in the NBC World Series, tying for 13th. Of the team’s 30-player roster, only one is a returnee from last season.
Seeking a return to the National Baseball Congress World Series, the 2008 Newton Rebels have made some changes.Sean Bechtold and Chris Pate will be sharing both field managerial duties as well as day-to-day team administration.General manager Carl Hodges, who founded the team, will be serving in an advisory position.The Rebels are in a different position on the field — defending Walter Johnson League champions and defending NBC Midwest Regional champions.Newton was 24-6 in league play last year. The team was 31-17 overall, 2-2 in the NBC World Series, tying for 13th.Of the team’s 30-player roster, only one is a returnee from last season.“There are a lot of unknowns,” Pate said. “We have a bunch of guys who we haven’t seen play yet. A lot of them came on the recommendation of college coaches.”Pate is a 2001 Friends University graduate. He played two years at Tabor and two years at Friends.He played in the Walter Johnson League with the McPherson-Lindsborg Black Sox from 1998 to 2001, finishing 10th in the NBC World Series in 1998. He managed the Wichita-McPherson Highlanders for two years.He also played and coached for the Wichita Black Sox and Wichita Ringnecks of the River City Victory League.He served as an assistant coach for Wichita Independent from 2002 to 2004.Bechtold is a 2003 Tabor graduate. He played at Oklahoma Panhandle State, Friends and Tabor.Bechtold was an assistant coach for the Wichita Rattlers in 2003 and the Black Sox in 2004. He managed the Wichita Ringnecks in 2005.Bechtold was a graduate assistant at Tabor from 2003 to 2005 and an assistant coach at Sterling College from 2005 to 2007.Top players for the Rebels this year include outfielder Cory Underhill, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American from St. Gregory’s University, where he batted .397 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs.The Rebels have four NCAA Division I players — Jose Mendoza, a second baseman from Texas-Pan American (.318, 2 HR, 35 RBI); pitcher Doug Roth of Texas-Pan American (0-2, 7.50 ERA, 1 save, 30 IP, 20 K); Aaron Hobson, an outfielder at Prairie View A and M; and shortstop Andrew Perez of Texas-Pan American (.287, 6 HR, 32 RBI).Hobson is the sole returnee from last season.Outfielder Andrew Revall spent last season with Pensacola of the independent professional American Association, where he hit .205 with a home run and four RBIs.Other players to watch include pitcher Brent Ebinger of Lambuth College, where he went 10-3 with a 3.81 ERA; Trevor Adams, an infielder from Hutchinson Community College, who hit .314 with five home runs and 42 RBIs; catcher Tanner Ybarra of Hutchinson Community College, who hit .286; pitcher Kyle Creamers of Oklahoma Panhandle State, who was 5-11 with a 6.46 ERA and a save; pitcher Tyler Gunelson of Newman University, who was 0-3 with a 6.03 ERA; pitcher Kevin Amos of Newman, who was 1-5 with a 5.96 ERA; pitcher Nick Robertson of Newman, who was 1-2 with a 9.18 ERA; and catcher Brandon Todd of Newman, who hit .333 with six RBIs.One of the only local players this season is utility player Kirk Kelly, a Newton High School grad who plays for Hesston College.“We’re going to be fairly young,” Pate said. “We have a lot of freshmen. We only have a few upperclassmen. ... We’re going to have good team speed. We have five or six guys who stole 15 or more bases for their college teams. We’re going to play a lot of small ball this season.”There are seven teams in the WJL this season — Newton, the Park City Rangers, the Pratt Drillers, the Salina Bluejays, the Sprinfield (Mo.) Generals, the Wichita Braves and the Wichita Wheatkings.Springfield is a new team this season. The Great Bend Cardinals, Wichita Blackhawks and Wichita Dirtbags all folded from last season.Pate expects Salina, Park City, the Wheatkings and Pratt all to be contenders this season.Non-league opponents include two traditional Jayhawk League powers — the Neveda Griffons and El Dorado Broncos — as well as the Derby Twins. Nevada and El Dorado will play in Newton this season June 12 and June 24 respectively.Another non-league game is against the Ozark Generals, a U18 select team, in the season opener Saturday in Ozark, Mo.The Rebels will have five buyout nights this season, meaning free admission — June 13, 18 and 28 sponsored by Ratzlaff Orthodontics; June 12 sponsored by Case, Moses, Zimmerman and Wilson, P.A.; and June 15 sponsored by Dr. Brett Roufs.“Our No. 1 goal this season is to get back to the World Series,” Pate said. “The best way to do that is to win the league. Once we get there, we want to finish as high as we can. This team has built a good reputation there the past couple of years. We want to improve on that success.”