With a 14-player roster featuring no seniors, five juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen, head coach Bill Dent wasn’t sure what to expect from the Nevis baseball team this season.
Six players graduated from a team that went 11-0 in Northland Conference play and 18-4 overall last season. The Tigers were on pace to duplicate those records by opening the season with a 9-2 mark before going 2-9 the rest of the season to finish with a 7-3 record in the conference, earn the No. 2 seed in the West for the Section 5A playoffs and post an 11-11 overall mark.
“Coming in, I didn’t know if we could win six or seven games,” said Dent. “I’d say winning 11 games, winning our half of the conference and getting the No. 2 seed in the playoffs was pretty good.”
The Tigers opened the season with an impressive 9-2 record in the first 11 games. Nevis followed a 4-1 win over Hill City/Northland with a doubleheader sweep over Pine River-Backus by scores of 24-3 and 15-6 in the Northland Conference opener.
After a 7-1 loss to Sebeka, the Tigers put together a four-game winning streak by defeating conference rivals Laporte (16-3), Northome-Kelliher (17-0), Cass Lake-Bena (24-4) and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (2-1). The wins over PR-B, Laporte and W-H-A gave Nevis the Northland Conference South Division title.
Nevis followed a 12-0 loss to Crosby-Ironton with a 16-2 win over Bagley and a 21-11 conference win over Red Lake.
A seven-game losing streak followed as the Tigers lost a conference game to Blackduck (10-0) and followed an 8-5 loss to Ely with conference losses to Lake of the Woods (12-11) and Blackduck (5-2 in the Northland Conference championship game). Nevis closed out the regular season with losses to Crosby-Ironton (12-8) and Frazee (10-0 and 5-1). In those seven games, the Tigers allowed 60 hits and 23 walks and committed 42 errors that led to 39 unearned runs.
Blackduck captured the conference title with a 9-0 overall record while W-H-A (9-2), Nevis (7-3), N-K (5-4), PR-B (4-5), CL-B (4-6), LOW (3-7), Red Lake (2-7) and Laporte (0-9) rounded out the Northland standings.
Despite ending the regular season on a losing streak, the Tigers used a 6-1 record against Section 5A teams to earn the No. 2 seed in the West for the section tournament. Nevis began the playoffs by eliminating No. 7 Cass Lake-Bena 6-0 and defeating No. 6 Menahga 11-1 before having the season end with losses to No. 1 Sebeka (5-2) and Menahga (13-10). Nevis walked only four batters and didn’t commit an error in the first two playoff games. However, the Tigers issued 18 walks and gave up 18 hits in the two playoff losses.
“I knew the freshmen were talented, but I wasn’t sure if they were ready for varsity. We got off to a good start and they got a lot of confidence,” said Dent. “Our schedule got a lot tougher and our season turned on us. We had a lot of errors and walks that hurt us.”
For the season, the Tigers averaged 8.9 runs a game while allowing 6.0 runs. Nevis had a .319 team batting average and a 3.00 team ERA.
Leading the Tigers to their .500 record were juniors Shep Davis, Kolby Hamblin, Dan Mistic, Ethan Tauber and Wyatt Rech; sophomores Dan Aman, Reese Kline and Derek Lindow; and freshmen Ian Ahrendt, Ward Davis, Tommy Gust, Tyler Lindow, Cain Mitchell and Aiden Thompson. Also seeing some varsity time were eighth graders Eli Johnson, Ethan Klimek and Dawson McGee.
Shep Davis, Mistic, Lindow and Mitchell earned all-conference honors while Rech received all-conference honorable mention honors. Lindow was the Tigers’ Pitcher of the Year, Mistic was the Offensive Player of the Year, Kline received the Rookie of the Year honor, and Ward Davis was named the Most Improved Player.
Shep Davis was the Tigers’ starting shortstop when not pitching and batted .375 with 21 runs scored, 23 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 22 games. In nine pitching appearances (six as a starter), Davis went 3-3 with a 3.00 ERA, including a no-hit, eight-strikeout win over Northome-Kelliher. Davis struck out 40 batters in 25 ⅔ innings.
Mistic led the Tigers with a .463 batting average, 30 runs and 26 RBI while stealing 13 bases as the Tigers’ starter in center field in 22 games. Mistic also made two relief appearances.
Derek Lindow was Nevis’ top pitcher, posting a 4-3 record and 1.41 ERA, including a no-hit, 18-strikeout performance in the playoff win over Cass Lake-Bena. Lindow made eight starts and struck out 66 batters in 39 ⅔ innings. At the plate, Lindow hit .356 with 26 runs and 11 RBI in 20 games.
Mitchell was the Tigers’ starting catcher who hit .316 with 17 runs and eight RBI and a team-leading 14 steals in 22 games. Mitchell also went 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA in three pitching appearances.
Rech started at first base and third base in 18 games and batted .292 with seven runs and 12 RBI while going 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA in five appearances on the mound, including three as a starter.
Aman started at first base and third base in 21 games and hit .308 with 10 runs and 11 RBI and went 1-0 with a 1.62 ERA in two pitching appearances.
Tyler Lindow started at second base in 22 games and batted .282 with 17 runs and 10 RBI. Lindow also recorded a save in two pitching appearances.
Ward Davis was the Tigers’ starter in left field in 21 games and batted .260 with 17 runs and 12 RBI. Davis went 0-1 with a 4.42 ERA in eight appearances, including two as a starter.
Kline hit .357 with 12 runs, 11 steals and eight RBI in 17 games as a starter in the outfield and at catcher.
Gust was Nevis’ No. 3 pitcher, going 1-1 with a 2.66 ERA in 10 appearances and two starts. Gust struck out 28 batters in 23 ⅔ innings. Gust also hit .111 with seven runs and two RBI in 19 games.
Thompson hit .278 with four runs and four RBI as a reserve catcher and outfielder in 17 games. Ahrendt played in 15 games in the outfield and batted .125 with seven runs and four RBI. Tauber played in 14 games and batted .286 with nine runs and 11 RBI. Hamblin batted .240 with five runs and five RBI in 14 games.
Klimek (eight games), McGee (seven games) and Johnson (three games) also saw some varsity action.
With the entire lineup returning, Dent is counting on the Tigers to once again contend for the conference title and make a longer run in the section playoffs next spring.
“We’ll have everybody back. We’ll return pretty good hitters with good speed and we’re going to have more depth on our pitching staff,” said Dent. “We were pretty good this year. I expect us to be really good next year.”