When Todd Boyer walks to Memorial Park’s home plate Tuesday — lineup intact — he will officially launch his 20th year with the Shawnee High School baseball program.


When Todd Boyer walks to Memorial Park’s home plate Tuesday — lineup intact — he will officially launch his 20th year with the Shawnee High School baseball program.
Over the last four years, Boyer has served as Shawnee’s head coach and has two playoff appearances under his belt.
A Class 6A member in 2010, Shawnee will be back under the 5A umbrella this season.
“The biggest difference about 6A and 5A is the playoffs,” Boyer said. “6A schools just have more pitching depth, particularly at regionals and state.”
Five of last year’s SHS starters, including leading hitter Saulyer Saxon (.482), were lost to graduation. Saxon, who led Shawnee in seven offensive categories — runs, hits, runs batted in, doubles, home runs, stolen bases and batting average — is a member of Oklahoma State’s baseball squad.
Shawnee regains the services of either three or four returning starters, depending on the availability of Brayle Brown.
Brown, a .307 hitter last year, hasn’t been released for playing duty after undergoing shoulder surgery following the football season.
“Right now, we’re just playing that situation by ear,” Boyer said.
Brown will likely be in the outfield if released to play.
Cooper Ansell, second to Saxon last year in batting average (.355), will man the center field slot.
“Cooper runs well and handles the bat well,” Boyer said. “He is a gap-to-gap hitter who can also bunt. He also covers a lot of ground in the outfield.”
Joining Ansell as returning starters are fellow seniors Dalton Pickering, a catcher, and shortstop Dylan Johnson.
“Dalton is much improved behind the plate,”  Boyer said. “He has turned himself into a solid defensive catcher.”
Johnson recorded a .315 batting average last year — third best on the team. He drove in 13 runs. A number of positions are up for grabs, including first base where Dustin Smith and Tanner Heatley are the leading candidates. Either Heatley or Logan Russell could end up at third base.
Hunter Holley, who played baseball as a freshman — then switched to soccer the next two years — is back on the diamond, likely as the right fielder.
Juniors Jared Hazelwood and Patrick Factor could also see outfield duty.
“Hunter is a big, strong, athletic kid,” Boyer said.
Junior Phillip Langley, one of Shawnee’s most consistent offensive performers in preseason scrimmages, can perform capably at several positions, notably first base, the outfield and behind the plate when Pickering is on the mound.
“I feel like defense will be a strength of our club,” Boyer said.
Johnson, a 5-10, 170-pound right-hander, opens the season as the Wolves’ No. 1 hurler, but Heatley, Pickering and sophomore Tim Perkins are all very close in the mound mix.
Shawnee will entertain Harrah at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the season opener.
“Our program is established enough that our goals every year are to win conference and to go to state,” Boyer said.
Notes: Aiding Boyer in 2011 will be assistants David Rolette and Matt Pierce, both in their fifth seasons, and Ryan Cameron, in his second year ... Shawnee is coming off a 12-22 campaign ... In addition to Saxon, Shawnee lost starters Dakota Blanchard, Nick Berry, Kassidy Cook and Taylor Langley to graduation.