The 2014 season started full of promise, but it ended in disappointment for the Ballard baseball program.
Ballard ended up 11-17 overall and 4-10 in the Raccoon River Conference. The final record was not a reflection of how well the Bombers played when everything was clicking, as they were very competitive over the first two-thirds of the season.
The season began with Ballard losing two of its first three games. The Bombers suffered a 5-2 loss at Ogden, came back with a 10-6 win over Madrid and lost a 12-2 decision against a powerful Class 5A school in Urbandale.
But then the Bombers won eight of their next nine contests.
On June 4 ,the Bombers edged South Tama by a 5-4 score and they followed that with a 6-3 home win over Carlisle. The Bombers then took down Gilbert by a 4-2 score at the Roland-Story Invitational and won at Bondurant-Farrar by a 7-4 margin.
Ballard whipped Woodward-Academy by a 7-0 score on June 10 and the following day the Bombers crushed Winterset, 12-3.
Perry ended Ballard’s hot streak with a 6-2 victory over the Bombers on June 12. But Ballard came back with a 7-3 win over Adel-Desoto-Minburn and the Bombers then squashed non-conference rival Nevada by a 16-1 margin in Nevada.
Carroll and Boone put a brief halt to Ballard’s momentum by putting together respective 15-9 and 12-2 wins over the Bombers on June 18 and 20. But on June 21, Ballard went 2-0 at the Bomber Invitational, blanking Nevada by a 7-0 score and handing Carlisle a 7-3 setback in Slater.
A six-day layoff followed the Ballard Invitational. That dry spell was not what the doctor ordered for the Bombers, though, as they went on to embark on a 12-game losing streak to end the season.
Ballard suffered a 4-3 loss to Carlisle in its first game back in action on June 27. On July 1, the Bombers gave eventual 2A state champion North Polk all it could handle before succombing by a 1-0 score at Slater.
Winterset handed Ballard another one-run loss on July 2 and Ballard suffered a 5-1 loss at Perry in its final game before July 4.
When play resumed on July 7, Ballard hadn’t found a way to reverse its slump. The Bombers lost by an 11-1 score at ADM, suffered an 8-5 home loss to Bondurant-Farrar and went on to lose road games to Pella and Carroll by respective 9-6 and 6-4 scores.
Boone belted Ballard, 14-4, July 11 in Slater. The Bombers finished the regular season with home losses to Dallas Center-Grimes and Gilbert by respective 8-1 and 4-1 scores.
Ballard gave an eventual 23-7 Humboldt team a good fight in the 3A district semifinals on July 18 in Clear Lake, but the Bombers were unable to stop their skid, ending the season with a 6-1 loss to the Wildcats.
For the regular season Ballard scored 132 runs on a strong .302 batting average with 37 doubles, three triples and eight home runs. The Bombers totaled 46 steals in 61 attempts and they posted on-base and slugging averages of .401 and .400 respectively.
The Bomber pitching staff allowed a total of 149 runs with a staff earned-run average of 4.07. The Bombers racked up 217 strikeouts against 131 walks with 31 hit batsmen and an opposing batting average of .176 in 177 innings.
Senior outfielder Jacob Nethers, junior designated hitter Kenny Randolph, junior catcher Marcus Johnson, junior third baseman Nathan Carlin and senior first baseman Lane Volkman were the top hitters for Ballard this season.
Nethers hit an impressive .468 with equally strong on-base and slugging averages of .539 and .701. Nethers racked up 10 doubles, one triple and two home runs and he finished with 12 walks, 21 runs and 22 RBI.
Randolph posted a 4.27 batting average with a .482 OBA and .533 slugging average. He hit five doubles and one home run and delivered 12 runs and 17 RBI.
Johnson registered a .345 batting average with .438 OBA and .455 slugging mark. He picked up four doubles and one triple, and walked six times.
Carlin hit .323 with a .443 OBA. He scored 16 times, walked 14 times and drove in nine runs.
Volkman finished just under .300 with a .282 batting average. He hit four doubles and two home runs and led Ballard in RBI with 23.
Seniors Mitchell Broer, Spencer Struve, Matt Poots and Nick Hartman each hit over .200 for Ballard on the season.
Broer hit .256 with a .407 OBA and .356 slugging average as Ballard’s second baseman. He connected for two doubles and one home run, plus he produced 10 runs, nine walks and four RBI.
Struve hit .232 with a .369 OBA. He smacked three doubles and delivered 15 runs, 14 RBI and 12 walks.
Poots hit .222 with a .300 OBA. He recorded two doubles, one home run, 14 runs, nine RBI and three steals.
Hartman hit .219 with a .306 OBA in 32 at-bats. He hit two doubles and drove in six runs.
Sophomore shortstop Kobe Schulze added a .214 average with two runs and RBI apiece during the regular season. Senior Coy Baker posted a .315 OBA with two doubles, one home run, four runs and seven RBI.
Senior Patrick Gray was Ballard’s top pinch runner. Gray stole a team-high nine bases in 11 attempts and he also scored 11 times.
Ballard’s pitching staff handled the job by committee during the season. Head coach John Cisna threw multiple pitchers in nearly every game to keep arms fresh and opposing batters off balance.
Baker and Hartman saw the most innings on the mound. Baker was the team’s top relief pitcher and Hartman led the team in starts with 12.
Baker went 4-3 with three saves in 41 ? innings. He finished with a 2.54 ERA, 53 strikeouts and 22 walks and held opponents to a .191 batting average.
Hartman went 3-4 with a 5.68 ERA. He struck out 58 and walked 54 with a .149 opponent batting average in 40 ? innings.
Sophomore Jaden Moody went 1-1 in 26 ? innings. He had a 2.63 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 15 walks.
Another sophomore, Jonny Luster, led Ballard in ERA with a 2.49 in 19 ? innings. Luster went 0-1 with 19 strikeouts and eight walks.
Kai Reinertson threw 17 ? innings as a sophomore. He went 1-1 with a 7.67 ERA, 23 strikeouts and 11 walks.
Junior Landon Manfull posted a 3.15 ERA with 16 strikeouts and 11 walks in 13 ? innings. Struve went 1-1 with a 6.68 ERA, eight strikeouts and six walks in 7 ? innings; Quinton Erickson registered a 3.94 ERA in 5 ? innings, Carlin was 1-0 with a 3.23 ERA in 4 ? innings and Poots threw one inning for Ballard.
Next season the Bombers will have to replace a large graduating class in Nethers, Volkman, Broer, Struve, Poots, Hartman, Baker and Gray. They will also have to adjust to a new coach, since Cisna is resigning.
But with Moody, Johnson, Randolph, Reinertson, Luster, Carlin, Manfull, Schulze and Erickson back, Ballard will have a solid enough foundation to make a run at a winning season.