The 2014 season may have marked a turning point for the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter baseball program as the Raiders showed vast improvement under second-year coach Max Seeman.
CMB went 8-14 overall this summer and placed seventh in the Heart of Iowa Conference with a 5-11 record. The Raiders just went a combined 2-43 the previous two seasons, including 1-21 in Seeman’s first season.
"We came so far since last year and even from the beginning of this season," Seeman said. "I am very proud of my guys."
The Raiders started their 2014 campaign with lopsided losses to Roland-Story and Saydel. But they started to turn the corner on May 30 with a close 2-1 loss to Gilbert in Collins.
CMB picked up its first victory on June 2 with a 5-0 shutout at Nevada. Two days later the Raiders blanked another opponent, topping Greene County by a 2-0 score.
Two-time defending state runner-up North Polk whipped CMB by a 14-0 score on June 5 and then PCM handled the Raiders by an 8-3 score June 9 at Collins. CMB came back with a 9-3 victory at South Hamilton, but then hit a losing skid.
The Raiders dropped four in a row before splitting games with West Marshall and Grundy Center June 21 in State Center. CMB suffered a 7-5 loss to the Trojans and they defeated the Spartans by a 5-3 margin.
The West Marshall tournament set CMB back on the right track.
On June 23 CMB completed a season sweep of Nevada with a 7-4 victory over the Cubs in Collins. The next night the Raiders gave North Polk a fight before suffering a 3-1 loss.
On June 25, Greene County handed CMB a 9-3 setback, but CMB responded with a pair of road wins. The Raiders knocked off Colfax-Mingo by a 4-2 score on July 7, and the next night they traveled to Granger and handed Woodward-Granger a 6-1 setback.
"Our biggest growth was in our confidence," Seeman said. "Baseball is a game that requires players to be confident - but not cocky - with their skills. If you hang your head or don’t think you can do something, there is a good chance you will fail. If you are confident and comfortable with what you are doing, you are giving yourself the best chance you can at succeeding. Once we won a couple games and were playing well, the guys seemed to gain some confidence, and that is when we played our best baseball."
CMB closed out the regular season with a 10-1 loss to Madrid. But the Raiders didn’t let that bad momentum carry over into district competition.
The Raiders opened district play with a commanding 15-5 triumph over Clarke. Three days later they took on a tough Des Moines Christian team and saw their season come to a close with a gutsy 6-4 loss to the Lions.
"Our biggest highlight of the year was the fact that we won eight games," Seeman said. "The past few years have been pretty rough in terms of winning, so winning eight games is a victory in itself. Another highlight would be winning in the first round of districts."
For the season CMB scored 81 runs and hit .226 as a team with a .320 on-base average and .302 slugging average. The Raiders totaled 26 doubles, four home runs and two triples and they picked up 17 steals in 23 attempts.
In 2013 CMB only scored 43 runs on a .176 batting average with 12 extra-base hits.
Senior first baseman Zach Samson, sophomore pitcher/outfielder Brady Stover and freshman Creighton Caple were the top hitters for CMB as they each hit .300 or better.
Samson posted a .359 average with a .423 OBA and .609 slugging average. Samson smacked seven doubles and three home runs and he totaled 11 runs, five steals and a team-best 17 RBI.
Stover hit .329 with a .402 OBA and .452 slugging average from the leadoff spot. He tallied eight walks, five doubles, four steals, two triples, 20 runs and six RBI.
Caple hit right at .300 with a .440 OBA, two doubles, five runs, six walks and nine RBI.
Freshman catcher/pitcher Hunter McWhirter wasn’t far off the .300 mark as he hit .275 with three doubles and one home run. McWhirter drove in nine runs and scored 11 and he also threw out 11 runners from behind the plate.
Junior Seth Balke hit .228 with four doubles, 12 runs and 10 RBI. Sophomore shortstop Spencer Gauch posted a .222 batting average with a .400 OBA, five runs and three RBI.
Sophomore Aric Broderick had two doubles, drove in three runs and tallied a .293 OBA. Freshman Tuck Maxwell posted a .266 OBA with two doubles and six RBI and sophomore Brad Ritter had a .292 OBA with a double, five runs and two RBI.
Brady Kemp tacked on three runs and one RBI, Jacob Stratton delivered two runs and three RBI on a .213 OBA and Nate Bishop totaled three hits and one RBI.
CMB gave up 130 runs on the season. The Raider pitching staff posted a 4.41 earned run-average and CMB fielded at a .913 clip.
CMB’s pitching and defense made huge strides in just one one year. In 2013 the Raiders allowed 222 runs with a 9.31 ERA and .842 fielding average.
Stover was the ace of the CMB staff in 2014. Stover went 4-3 with a strong 2.21 ERA and .156 opponent’s batting average, and he also racked up an impressive 95 strikeouts against 32 walks in 50 ? innings.
Balke was 3-3 with a 3.16 ERA, 38 strikeouts and only seven walks in 37 ? innings as the No. 2 pitcher for CMB. McWhirter was 1-1 with a 4.20 ERA, 18 strikeouts and seven walks in 13 ? innings; Samson went 0-3 with an 8.04 ERA and eight strikeouts in 15 ? innings and Bishop finished 0-4 with an 8.30 ERA, 17 strikeouts and 28 walks in 27 innings.
In the field Ritter shared time at catcher and went error- free with 30 chances and he also threw out two runners. Caple posted a .956 fielding average with 42 putouts and Balke had a .952 average with 20 assists and putouts apiece.
Samson registered a .920 average with 63 putouts and 17 assists, Maxwell had a .913 average with 20 putouts and Stover finished with a .909 average, 21 putouts and 19 assists. Stratton delivered 23 putouts, Gauch had 28 putouts and 27 assists, Bishop recorded 19 putouts and 18 assists and Broderick made eight putouts and six assists.
The Raiders only lose two seniors in Samson and Stratton.
"Zach was a good leader and we needed one due to the fact that more than half of our team was made up of underclassmen," Seeman said. "He also played a huge role in our lineup - he was the guy you wanted up in clutch situations. Jacob didn’t go out last year, but he adjusted quickly and played a vital role on our defense. He made spectacular plays in the outfield and he was also that guy that kept the team loose and relaxed. He is a bit of a jokester and it is good to have one or two of those guys on your team."
With so many players coming back, CMB had a chance to take another big step forward in 2015.
"I am excited to see what next year has in store," Seeman said. "There are at least 10 guys coming back with varsity experience. That experience will help us win some close games and it will also give guys a little more confidence coming into next season."