Strong finish highlights 2015 season for CMB

Story and photos by Joe Randleman
Strong finish highlights 2015 season for CMB

Things didn’t always go smoothly for the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter baseball team in 2015, but the Raiders were playing quality ball by season’s end, increasing their win total from a year ago.

CMB finished 10-15 overall and 6-10 in the Heart of Iowa Conference. In 2014 the Raiders went 8-14 and 5-11 respectively.

Injuries and inexperience took a toll on CMB at times. That made it hard for the Raiders to maintain a consistently level of play for very long.

But things came together at the end of the season. The Raiders won four of their final five games and reached the championship round of Class 2A districts to better last year’s semifinal appearance.

“This was a season of ups, downs, some more ups and some more downs,” CMB head coach Max Seeman said. “We started off playing really well, but then fell into a funk. But playing so well at the end of the season makes up for how poorly we did in that mid-season stretch. We won more games this year than CMB has in a long time and I am looking forward to what the future has in store for the CMB Raiders.”

The Raiders won four of their first six games to start the season.

After losing to Nevada in its opener, CMB defeated a solid Greene County team by a 3-2 score, then lost at North Polk by a 4-0 margin. The Raiders came back from the North Polk loss to win three straight, squeaking by Prairie City-Monroe by a 3-2 score, crushing South Hamilton by a 10-0 margin and pulling off an 8-2 victory at Colfax-Mingo.

CMB dropped a 16-12 non-conference slugfest with West Marshall on June 9, then came back with an impressive 5-0 victory over eventual state qualifier Roland-Story at home.

Then the Raiders hit their swoon. From June 12-26, they lost nine straight.

CMB fell against a good Saydel team on the road by a 3-2 score, then lost to Colo-Nesco and Pleasantville at a tournament in Zearing. Then CMB pushed ranked 3A power and eventual HOIC champion Gilbert to the limit before losing 4-3 at Gilbert on June 15.

Star pitcher Brady Stover hurt his arm following the Gilbert loss. That played a big part in the two-week Raider losing skid.

The Raiders suffered losses to Nevada, Greene County, North Polk, Ballard and South Hamilton before snapping their losing streak with a 4-1 win over Colfax Mingo in Collins on June 29. But they continued to struggle the rest of that week, losing by lopsided margins to Gilbert and Saydel.

With the regular season coming to a close, CMB needed to turn things around in a hurry. A little soul searching proved just what the Raiders needed.

“We changed a few things in our practices and the guys had a players-only meeting,” Seeman said. “After that we started to play our best baseball of the year.”

CMB defeated Woodward-Granger and Madrid by scores of 9-4 and 10-0 to end the regular season. The Raiders then won a rematch with Madrid in the 2A district quarterfinals by a 5-3 score.

That pitted CMB against 10th-ranked Ogden in the district semifinals at Ogden. Behind the pitching of Stover and some timely hitting, the Raiders pulled off their biggest victory of the season with a 5-3 upset of the Bulldogs.

In the district championship game back at Ogden, CMB faced defending 2A state champion North Polk. The Raiders fell behind early, but nearly rallied in the seventh inning before losing a 4-3 heartbreaker.

“We ended the season on a high note, which makes the season feel like a success,” Seeman said. “We won more games this year than CMB has in a long time.”

For the season CMB scored 100 runs and gave up 140.

The Raiders hit .239 with a .343 on-base average as a team and they totaled 17 doubles, four home runs, 71 walks and 39 steals in 43 attempts. CMB posted a staff earned-run average of 4.61 and also recorded a fielding percentage of .924 with 454 putouts, 166 assists and 51 errors in 671 chances.

Six different players hit .250 or better for CMB during the season. Catcher Hunter McWhirter and third baseman/pitcher Seth Balke led the way by both hitting well over .300.

McWhirter hit .347 with a .443 OBA and .360 slugging average. He totaled one double, 10 walks, 13 runs and 10 RBI and also threw five runners out and recorded a .977 fielding average.

Balke hit .346 with a .414 OBA and .385 slugging average. He recorded three doubles, 16 runs, 10 RBI and eight steals and eight attempts.

In the field Balke only had three errors with 46 assists and 22 putouts.

Sophomore first baseman Creighton Caple and junior Brad Ritter hit .294 and .280 respectively for CMB.

Caple had a .438 OBA and delivered 10 runs, four steals and two RBI. He also had 98 putouts and six assists against four errors in the field.

Ritter came on late in the season. He recorded five doubles, 10 runs, seven RBI and five steals and also made 35 putouts, three assists and only one error in the field.

Stover hit .267 with three doubles, one home run, 13 runs, nine RBI and a team-best nine steals. Splitting time between the mound and center field, Stover had 54 putouts, eight assists and four errors on defense.

Sophomore Brady Kemp hit .250 for CMB with two doubles, 11 runs and six RBI. In the field, Kemp had 16 putouts and 10 assists.

Junior infielder Spencer Gauch, junior Aric Broderick, sophomore Tucker Maxwell, junior infielder Nate Bishop and sophomore infielder Brady Ross all had double-figure at-bats for CMB.

Gauch hit .196 with 10 walks and a .388 OBA in 51 at-bats. He also scored nine runs, drove in six, stole seven bases and had 28 assists and 20 putouts in the field.

Broderick posted a .222 OBA with three doubles and four runs and RBI apiece. He also made nine assists and two putouts on defense.

Maxwell had a .244 OBA with two home runs, seven runs and a team-high 11 RBI. In the field he made 14 putouts, two assists and only one error.

Bishop posted a .259 OBA and .320 slugging average with one home run. He recorded 21 assists and 16 putouts on defense.

Ross scored two runs and he also registered 10 assists and nine putouts with no errors.

Freshmen Bryce Bacon and Travis Lindemoen each had nine at-bats and freshman Carter Fricke ended up with eight for CMB.

Bacon had a .273 OBA with two RBI, five putouts and two assists. Lindemoen had a .182 OBA and was solid on the base paths as a courtesy runner with nine runs scored; Fricke walked four times and picked up four putouts.

Stover and Balke handled most of the work on the mound for CMB.

Stover showed that he is one of the top pitchers in 2A. Despite his injury, the southpaw went 5-2 with 91 strikeouts against 24 walks with a low .171 opponent batting average and outstanding 1.58 ERA in 44 ? innings.

Balke was 2-5 with a 3.64 ERA in 40 ? innings. He had 37 strikeouts and possessed outstanding control, with only seven walks allowed all season.

Bishop was the No. 3 pitcher in the order. He went 2-2 with a 5.25 ERA, 21 strikeouts and 18 walks in 20 innings.

Kemp was 1-1 with a 7.00 ERA in 13 innings. Maxwell was 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA in 11 innings.

Caple threw 7 ? innings and McWhirter and Ritter both got in 6 ? innings of pitching action for CMB.

Next season is shaping up for CMB to potentially turn the corner as a program. The Raiders only lose one senior, though Balke will be hard to replace.

“Seth is a great young man,” Seeman said. “He is going to Creighton next year and is the type of player you love to coach. He does anything you ask of him, has a team-first attitude you want to see from all players and he plays every game like it is his last.”

But with everyone else back CMB will make a run at a winning season in 2016.

“I feel pretty good about next season,” Seeman said. “It will be nice to have so many returning varsity starters, especially Brady. These guys know what it takes to be successful and they got a taste of a small postseason run. I know they will be hungry to go even farther, so I am excited to see what we can do.”