Seniors sparked success
Having six veteran seniors in the starting lineup gave head coach Bill Dent plenty of confidence that the Nevis baseball team would contend for the Northland Conference and Section 5A titles this spring.
The Tigers lived up to those high expectations by going 11-0 to win the conference title, being one of the final four teams in the section playoffs and finishing the season with an 18-4 overall record.
Returning to lead the Tigers in their third season as starters were seniors Jack DeWulf, Sam Hitchcock, Jack Landquist, Dillon McGee, Tucker Roehl and Adam Thompson. Also playing key roles were junior Ben Soldwisch; sophomores Shep Davis, Luke DeWulf, Dan Mistic, Logan Funk and Wyatt Rech; freshmen Derek Lindow; and eighth grader Cain Mitchell.
That group helped the Tigers hit .362 as a team with 67 extra-base hits and 100 stolen bases while averaging 10.8 runs a game. The pitching staff had a team ERA of 2.37 while giving up 3.5 runs a game with five shutouts. The defense committed 45 errors that led to 32 unearned runs.
"We had a very good season with a great group of guys," said Dent. "Our team could really hit the ball and run the bases. We scored a lot of runs and pitched pretty well overall. It was a fun team to coach and watch play because of their aggressiveness."
The Tigers went undefeated in Northland Conference play with an 11-0 record by sweeping Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (14-6 and 10-0), Laporte (15-5 and 14-3) and Pine River-Backus (4-0 and 10-3) while adding wins over Red Lake (30-2), Blackduck (3-2), Cass Lake-Bena (21-2), Lake of the Woods (20-4) and Northome-Kelliher (14-1). Blackduck took second in the conference standings at 10-1 while PR-B (8-4), W-H-A (7-4), CL-B (5-5), LOW (4-8), N-K (3-8), Laporte (1-11) and Red Lake (0-8) followed.
Nevis also defeated Bagley (7-0) and Isle (12-3) to open the season with a 12-0 record before splitting a pair of games against Ely, winning 10-6 and losing 4-1. A 10-7 loss to Frazee and a 4-1 win over Menahga gave the Tigers a 15-2 record after the regular season.
For the Section 5A tournament, Nevis received the No. 1 seed in the West and opened with a 10-0 win over No. 8 Menahga before being thrown into the losers' bracket with a 9-8 loss in eight innings to No. 4 Pine River-Backus. Nevis stayed alive with a 9-7 win over No. 3 Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and a 9-0 victory over No. 2 Hill City/Northland before an 8-4 loss to Braham, the No. 1 seed in the East, ended the Tigers' season. PR-B eliminated Braham 7-4 before Hinckley-Finlayson, the No. 2 seed in the East, defeated PR-B 9-3 in the section title game.
"We are all disappointed in not advancing further in the section tournament," said Dent. "We felt that we could challenge for the title. We just didn't play up to that level. However, getting to the final four is a step to where we plan on getting in the future."
The six seniors played a major role in the Tigers' success this season.
Thompson was named the Northland Conference's Most Valuable Player and was joined on the all-conference team by Jack DeWulf, Landquist, McGee and Luke DeWulf. Mistic and Davis received all-conference honorable mention honors. Thompson and Jack DeWulf were also named to the state Class A team and were joined by Landquist as academic all-state players.
Team awards went to Thompson (MVP, Best Defense and Mr. Baseball), Jack DeWulf (Best Offense), Mitchell (Rookie of the Year), McGee (Best Pitcher) and Davis (Most Improved Player). Luke DeWulf and Davis were named captains for next season.
Thompson started all 22 games at shortstop and catcher, leading the team by batting .463 (31 for 67, including five doubles and one triple) with a team-leading 38 runs scored and 32 stolen bases while driving in 17 runs. In 10 pitching appearances, including two as a starter, Thompson went 3-1 with two saves and a 1.08 ERA. Thompson allowed seven runs (four earned) on 21 hits and seven walks while striking out 28 in 26 innings.
Jack DeWulf also started all 22 games (mostly in center field), batting .427 (32 for 75, including four doubles, six triples and four homers) with a team-leading 37 RBI along with 37 runs scored and 19 stolen bases.
Roehl played in 19 games in right field and hit .388 (19 for 49, including two doubles and a triple) with 14 runs, nine RBI and four steals. Roehl also pitched 13 innings, going 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA. Roehl allowed nine runs (four earned) on nine hits and 16 walks with 20 strikeouts in five appearances, including three as a starter.
Landquist was a starter in 22 games at first base and posted a .348 batting average (24 for 69, including eight doubles and a homer) with 19 runs scored, 25 RBI and three stolen bases.
McGee was the starter in left field in 22 games, hitting .343 (23 for 67, including eight doubles and one triple) with 20 runs, 20 RBI and 11 stolen bases. McGee also had a 4-1 record with one save and a 2.15 ERA. In a team-high 39 innings, McGee allowed 22 runs (12 earned) on 33 hits and 27 walks while striking out 48. McGee made nine pitching appearances, including seven as a starter.
Hitchcock started 20 games at third base and finished with a .184 batting average (7 for 38, including four doubles) with 19 runs, nine RBI and six stolen bases.
Luke DeWulf was second on the team with a .431 average (22 for 51, including nine doubles and two homers) in 15 games. DeWulf, who missed the end of the season with a hamstring injury, scored 16 runs and stole 12 bases while driving in 22 runs. DeWulf also made four pitching appearances as a starter, going 3-0 with a 5.78 ERA. DeWulf issued 13 runs (11 earned) on 16 hits and 16 walks while recording 15 strikeouts in 13.1 innings.
Mistic played in all 22 games and hit .400 (26 for 64, including three doubles and a triple) with 21 runs scored, seven steals and 12 RBI. Mistic also made three appearances on the mound, posting a 4.67 ERA. Mistic started two games and allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits and seven walks while striking out six in three innings of work.
Davis was the Tigers' starter at second base in most of his 22 games, batting .373 (22 for 59, including four doubles and two homers) with 22 runs scored, five steals and 25 RBI. On the mound, Davis went 2-1 with two saves and a 1.03 ERA in 10 appearances, including three as a starter. Davis allowed 12 runs (three earned) on 11 hits and 17 walks with 38 strikeouts in 20.1 innings.
Funk hit .154 (2 for 13) with eight runs and two RBI in 17 games.
Soldwisch played in 15 games and hit .125 (1 for 8) with six runs and one RBI.
Rech played in 14 games and hit .167 (2 for 12) with three runs and four RBI.
Lindow pitched 17 innings, going 3-1 with a 3.17 ERA. In seven appearances, including one as a starter, Lindow gave up nine earned runs and 11 runs overall on 12 hits and nine walks with 27 strikeouts. Lindow played in nine games and batted .222 (2 for 9) with four runs and two RBI.
Mitchell filled in at catcher in nine games and batted .222 (2 for 9) with one run and four RBI.
Also seeing some varsity time this season were sophomore Ethan Tauber (four games); freshman Reese Kline (eight games), Brody Johnson (three games) and Dan Aman (three games); eighth grader Ian Ahrendt (two games); and seventh graders Dawson McGee (one game) and Ethan Klimek (one game).
"It will be difficult to replace the six seniors," said Dent. "We have key players coming back and they will need to step up and lead next year. Luke, Shep and Danny return as solid players and leaders for the next two seasons. We have several others who should give us a good opportunity for continued success. Ben, Wyatt, Ethan and Derek will slide right into varsity roles. We will expect to challenge again for conference and section titles."