Prep Baseball Report

Preseason High School Preview: Willard

By: Diego Solares
Central Region Media Director, Area Scout

The 2024 Missouri high school baseball season is quickly approaching and, as usual, excitement is abound throughout the state. Players and coaches have been working in preparation for the upcoming season and, as is the case each year, there are some very talented players and teams across Missouri. 

Teams across the state have goals and aspirations to finish their seasons in Ozark come early June, but there is plenty of work to be done before that becomes reality. We hope to familiarize our readers with many of the teams across the state as we preview individual teams across Missouri. We will take you right up to first pitch this season with these team previews, eventually releasing our Preseason team rankings that’ll carry us into the opening week of action.

Please keep checking back throughout the season as we will be your one-stop shop for everything related to high school baseball across the state, and we’ll be releasing daily content to ensure our top-tier coverage of the ‘Show Me’ state. 

Our 2024 preseason coverage continues today.

Team: Willard
2023 Record (Playoff Finish): 28-10 (District Runner-Ups)
Conference: COC
Classification: 5A
Head Coach: Scott McGee


+ INF Drew Quinlan (2024)
+ INF Landon Moore (2024; North Arkansas College)
+ INF Jacob Hearon (2024)
+ OF/RHP Cameron Jennings (2024; College of the Ozarks)
+ OF Peyton Gayer (2024; Evangel)
+ OF Hayden Rakestraw (2024; John Wood CC)
+ LHP Hayden Larson (2024; Fort Scott CC)
+ RHP Russell Roweton (2024)
+ LHP Will Merryman (2024)
+ RHP Kaelin Adams (2024)
+ C Rowden LeJeune (2025)
+ UTL Bryton Towe (2025) 
+ INF Caleb Hayter (2025)
+ INF Collin Spering (2025)
+ INF Matthew Angel (2025)
+ OF Jackson Phipps (2025)
+ 1B/OF Jake Peterson (2025)


+ OF/RHP Levi Hilton (2026)
+ INF Cade Hayter (2026)
+ C Jarrett McGee (2026)


Willard’s success sas a program since the 2012 season has been well documented across the state. In that span, the Tigers have reached the Final Four five times, including a state championship in 2021, and they were one of the last four teams playing in three consecutive seasons (2019, 2021, 2022). Last year, the 28-win Tigers fell just short of winning another District Championship, losing in the title game to Glendale.

Per status quo, Willard figures to be another true title contender in Class 5 this upcoming season. Given the depth and success of their program, Willard doesn’t rebuild - they reload, and there’s talent scattered throughout this roster. 

Starting on the mound, Willard returns one of their top arms from last year in LHP Hayden Larson (2024; Fort Scott CC). A strike thrower with three pitches, Larson hurled the second most innings on the team in his junior year (37 IP), pitching to a 1.70 ERA with 30 strikeouts and a 5-1 record. He’ll give them a chance to win each game he toes the rubber, and makes for a quality one-two punch with fellow senior arm RHP Cameron Jennings (2024; College of the Ozarks). Jennings, who reportedly pitches in the upper-80s with his fastball, logged 28 ⅓ innings of work last spring with a 1.98 ERA. 

There’s a few more names on this roster that deepen this staff. RHP Russell Roweton (2024) and RHP Kaelin Adams (2024) are two senior arms from last year’s squad that each threw more than 20 innings. Adams, in particular, was effective over a 29 inning workload, posting a 6-0 record with a 1.93 ERA and 31 strikeouts to just six walks. LHP Will Merryman (2024) fills up the zone from the left side with three pitches for strikes and also saw time on varsity last spring. RHP/INF Collin Spering (2025) and UTL Bryton Towe (2025) are two more names to watch on the mound as well. 

OF/RHP Levi Hilton (2026) figures to impact this club on both sides of the ball as an underclassmen. Internally, the Tigers are high on Hilton as a two-way contributor with loud tools both on the mound and at the plate. Should he take a step up in his sophomore year, Hilton’s emergence as a true asset could unlock a new level for Willard in 2024. 

The offensive side is where Willard will have to replace a bulk of their production from last year’s group, but up-and-coming talent paired with a few notable returners have this lineup fortified from top to bottom. INF Landon Moore (Northern Arkansas, 2024) has been a three year starter and brings back a .305 batting average with a .492 on-base percentage. He drew 10 more walks (24) than strikeouts (14), drove in 21 runs, scored 36 times, and swiped 17 bags as well. INF Drew Quinlan (2024) is another three year starter, and also a high level basketball player, who provides thump and on-base skills to this group. He slashed .358/.470/.477 with 11 extra-base hits in total while plating a near team-high 34 runs. 

Pairing with those two names on the infield are a handful of juniors and sophomores that’ll look to make a positive impact for this club. INF Matthew Angel (2025) hit .316 over 57 at-bats last spring and is an athletic 6-foot-2, 160-pound prospect that can run with an upside left-handed swing. Spering and Towe, who were each highlighted above as potential arms, are two names to watch in this infield group, as well as INF Cade Hayter (2026). 

Three seniors figure to patrol the outfield, with the aforementioned Hilton as another potential option as well. Highlighted above for his talents on the mound, Jennings is a formidable offensive threat too, batting .361 with seven doubles and 21 RBIs across 72 at-bats. OF Hayden Rakestraw (2024; John Wood CC) and OF Peyton Gayer (2024; Evangel) are two seniors committed to play collegiately who could see an expanded role as well. 

An advanced defender behind the plate, C Rowden LeJeune (2025) will captain this pitching staff from the chute. Another name to watch is left-handed hitting sophomore C Jarrett McGee (2026) who could add more versatility to this lineup. 


Willard has more than proven themselves as a program that’s consistently going to be a contender in Class 5 year after year. Though some key names from a District runner-up team have graduated, the Tigers' rich pool of talent extends deep into their program and should prove fruitful yet again in 2024.