Mark Zender knew he was inheriting a talented team when he took over as Kentwood’s baseball coach.
The longtime coach, who spent 11 years as the head coach at O’Dea — his last year was 1997 — and the last two years as an assistant with the Conquerors, took over for Jon Aarstad, who left to take over at Auburn Riverside.
“I was handed a very, very talented team and, probably more important than that, they’re just great kids,” Zender said. “They’ve all been playing together a long time. They all get along. They’re all friends. It’s one of those classic high-school stories that way.”
The Conquerors (9-0) are the state’s top-ranked in Class 4A, riding a strong combination of talent and chemistry.
Considering he spent two years at Kentwood prior to taking over, he knew all the kids in the program before the season started. It made for an easy transition.
One of the key’s to the team’s early season success is the play of junior catcher Reese McGuire, who has established himself as one of the state’s top prospects.
“He’s the real deal,” Zender said. “He really is. He’s only a junior. He’s going to be a high-round draft pick when he gets out of high school.
“He’s really talented, my goodness. Defensively, his throwing arm is unbelievable — truly amazing.”