Two seasons removed from a second place finish to Kelly in Class 2, District 2 and a loss to the eventual district winner Scott City last year, the Bluejays are primed for a big run this year.
"This could be our breakout year," said Charleston head coach Chris Stanfield after the Bluejays went 7-16 a year ago. "The loss to Kelly in the district championship two years, was I believe, our first final appearance ever for baseball. We are definitely ready to take the next step. This is the most potential as a group, I have had in my seven years here."
Charleston experienced some losses due to graduation in Dustin McCann and Spencer Whitehead. McCann was the No. 2 pitcher last season and was a utility player, who played wherever needed.
Whitehead was the third baseman last year and the No. 2 RBI man for the Bluejays.
Stanfield believes that pitching will be improved this year with depth not being a problem.
"Out of 20 kids who are playing this year," said Stanfield, "13 are working as pitchers. Four or five have varsity experience going in, so we feel pretty solid at the pitcher position."
Junior Brink Naile will head into the season as a solid pitcher for Charleston. Last year, Naile went 1-4 with a tough 3.61 earned run average. Naile has a better than average fastball, but most importantly, throws strikes and doesn't allow many walks.
Senior Josh Marshall went 1-3 last season and will be expected to be the Bluejays' power pitcher.
In the infield, junior Tyler McCann will play at first base for Charleston. McCann hit .235 last year after earning the position late. According to Stanfield, McCann has a good glove and his offensive will be a plus.
Junior Billy Butler will patrol second base and hit .239 last season with 11 RBI's. Butler committed only four errors in nine games at second, after moving over from third base.
"Billy is constantly improving after starting at third base last year," said Stanfield. "He has found a home at second and his arm strength continues to improve."
When not pitching, Naile will anchor the shortstop position. Last year, Naile batted .357 and led Charleston with 16 RBI's. Naile also had an outstanding .575 on-base percentage. Freshman Jamie Barber will be at short when Naile is pitching.
At third, junior Tommy Starr will to try become accustomed to a new position.
"Tommy is looking good at third and is swinging the bat well in practice," said Stanfield. "Tommy has hit the weight room hard this past year and it has paid off. He is hitting the ball hard this spring."
Stanfield considers senior catcher John Robert Goodin as the leader on defense. This will be Goodin's second year behind the plate.
"He (Goodin) is a take charge kind of guy out on the field," said Stanfield. "He is my coach on the field and is very effective blocking the ball in the dirt."
In the outfield for the Bluejays, two positions are locked down, while one is up for grabs.
Scott County Central transfer Paul Johnson will be in leftfield for Charleston. Johnson, a sophomore, is still playing basketball with the state bound Bluejays.
Johnson will be penciled in as the lead-off batter for the Bluejays and was very effective in summer baseball.
Marshall will be in centerfield and had a solid season last year, batting .317 with 15 RBI's. Marshall brings experience to the Charleston lineup and is a four-year starter.
Two players are vying for rightfield in sophomore Matt Medlock and freshman Nick Johnson, who is also a Scott Central transfer.
"Rightfield is up in the air as both kids (Johnson and Medlock) have been playing well," said Stanfield. "I think we will decide who will start on Monday, our first game of the year. They are that close. It's going to be a tough decision."
Districts will be a dog fight according to Stanfield, with the likes of Scott City, Valle, St. Vincent and Kelly.
"It is going to be a tough road to get through district play," said Stanfield. "It looks to be wide open and if we can play to our potential, I feel we can be right in the mix. With our team the way it is now, we can compete for the district title."
Charleston will open up play on Monday at 4 p.m. with a game at Portageville On Thursday at 4 p.m., the Bluejays will play host to county rival East Prairie.
The Bluejays host Chaffee on Friday at 4 p.m. to round out their first week of action.