Patience will be key for Nevis baseball team
Head coach Bill Dent is emphasizing patience as the Nevis baseball team looks to replace several players from last season.
Six senior starters graduated from last year's team that won the Northland Conference title with an 11-0 record, advanced to the Section 5A semifinals and finished with an 18-4 overall record. In addition to the loss due to graduation, three other letterwinners decided to go out for different sports this spring.
On the positive side, Dent has five regulars and four other players who saw limited time returning to lead the Tigers this spring. Being counted on to lead a young Nevis team this season are juniors Shep Davis, Danny Mistic, Wyatt Rech and Ethan Tauber; sophomores Derek Lindow, Dan Aman and Reese Kline; and freshmen Cain Mitchell and Ian Ahrendt. Mistic and Davis return as all-conference honorable mention players with Davis serving as captain this spring.
Mistic will take over as the starter in center field after batting .406 (26 for 64) with 21 runs scored, 12 RBI and seven stolen bases in 22 games while Davis will move from second base to shortstop after playing in 22 games and batting .373 (22 for 59) with a pair of home runs, 22 runs scored, 25 RBI and five steals. Rech, who saw action in 14 games and went 2 for 12 with three runs and four RBI, will start at third base. Lindow played in nine games, going 2 for 9 with four runs and two RBI. Mitchell filled in at catcher in nine games and also went 2 for 9 with four RBI.
Lindow, Davis, Mistic and Rech will be the main pitchers this season. Lindow (3-1 record, 3.17 ERA) allowed nine earned runs on 12 hits and nine walks with 27 strikeouts in seven pitching appearances and 17 innings. Davis (2-1, 1.03 ERA) pitched 20.1 innings and gave up three earned runs on 11 hits and 17 walks with 38 strikeouts. Mistic (0-0 record, 4.67 ERA) started two games and allowed two earned runs on three hits and seven walks while striking out six in three innings.
Aman (1 for 4, one run, one RBI in three games) will take over at first base, Kline (0 for 1, three runs in eight games) will start in left field, Tauber (1 for 2, one run, one RBI in four games) will compete for the starting spot in right field and Ahrendt (0 for 1, one run in two games) will provide depth at third base and the outfield.
The Tigers have several key starting spots to fill with the graduation of Jack DeWulf, Sam Hitchcock, Jack Landquist, Dillon McGee, Tucker Roehl and Adam Thompson. Thompson and DeWulf received Class A All-State honors with Thompson also being named the Northland Conference's MVP. DeWulf and McGee also earned all-conference honors.
Offensively, last year's seniors helped the Tigers hit .362 as a team and average 10.8 runs a game. Thompson hit .463 with 38 runs scored, 32 stolen bases and 17 RBI at shortstop and catcher; DeWulf batted .427 with four home runs, 37 RBI, 37 runs scored and 19 steals as the center fielder; Roehl played right field at batted .388 with 14 runs and nine RBI; Landquist hit .348 with 19 runs scored and 25 RBI as the starter at first base; McGee batted .343 with 20 runs and 20 RBI as the starter in left field; and Hitchcock hit .184 with 19 runs and nine RBI as the starter at third base. Thompson (3-1 with two saves and a 1.08 ERA), Roehl (3-0 with a 2.15 ERA) and McGee (4-1, 2.15 ERA) also led the pitching staff, which had a team ERA of 2.37 and allowed 3.5 runs a game.
Being counted on to fill those spots are junior Kolby Hamblin (right field) and freshmen Tyler Lindow (second base), Ward Davis (second base), Tommy Gust (pitcher, first base, outfield) and Aiden Thompson (catcher, outfield).
"Graduation hit us hard. We have a small, young and inexperienced team coming into the season," siad Dent, who will be assisted by former Byron head coach Larry Franck and former Park Rapids head coach Mark Juberian. "We have athletic ability and talent. The challenge will be to make all of our young guys baseball players. Last season, we had a great hitting team. This season, we will not be able to outslug teams and we need to stop big innings defensively. We will need to play small ball and move runners around. We do have plenty of young arms. We have stressed throwing strikes and playing defense. If Derek and Shep pitch to their abilities, we will compete with teams on our schedule. They should give us a chance to win each time they are on the mound. We have several questions that need to be answered with young players. The good thing is that they will all get plenty of chance to play and improve."
Blackduck finished behind Nevis in the conference standings at 10-1 with Pine River-Backus (8-4) and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (7-4) following. Dent sees Blackduck as the favorite to win the conference title with PR-B and W-H-A contending. In Section 5A, Dent expects Hinckley-Finlayson, Isle and Sebeka to be the top teams.
Last season, the Tigers earned the No. 1 seed in the West for the Section 5A tournament. Nevis defeated No. 8 Menahga 10-0 before falling to No. 4 Pine River-Backus 9-8 in the second round. The Tigers stayed alive with wins over No. 3 Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (9-7) and No. 2 Hill City/Northland (9-0) before being eliminated with a 7-4 loss to Braham, the No. 1 seed in the East. Hinkcley-Finlayson, the No. 2 seed in the East, defeated Pine River-Backus 9-3 in the championship game.
With an inexperienced group, Dent is looking for his team to improve throughout the season and peak at the end of the season.
"Patience is the key for us this year. We expect to get better each week and then compete at our best at the end of the season and into the playoffs," said Dent. "We believe in this group of players and know that given time, they will become solid teammates and players. Development this season and next season will be fundamental to our success. Give this group time and we will challenge for a conference and a section title within a year or two."
April 18 - vs. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, 4:30 p.m. April 23 - vs. Pine River-Backus (2), 4 p.m. April 26-27 - at Sebeka tournament. April 29 - at Lake of the Woods (2), 4 p.m.
May 2 - at Cass Lake-Bena, 4:30 p.m. May 7 - vs. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, 4:30 p.m. May 9 - vs. Blackduck, 4:30 p.m. May 11 - at Blackduck tournament. May 13 - vs. Laporte, 3:30 p.m.