Ballard makes small gains in 2015

Story and photos by Joe Randleman
Ballard makes small gains in 2015

The 2015 season was a learning experience for the Ballard baseball program, as the Bombers went through ups and downs under first-year coach Nick Steenhagen.

Steenhagen took over a program that was coming off an 11-16 season that included an 11-game losing streak to end the season. With several new faces stepping into the varsity lineup, it was going to be a tough climb for the program to regain confidence.

But Ballard managed to survive an early slump to end up improving on last year’s record. The Bombers went 13-19 in 2015 and finished 5-9 in a tough Raccoon River Conference.

“Overall, we made good strides for the future,” Steenhagen said. “I was very pleased with everyone’s effort and enthusiasm. Although our record doesn’t show it, we had a very successful season. I am very happy with what we accomplished. The future is looking very bright.”

The Bombers actually won three of their first five games of the season.

After opening with a loss to Ogden, the Bombers claimed a 9-2 victory at Madrid, then split two games at Waterloo. Ballard defeated Dike-New Hartford in a 10-9 battle and came up short against Western Dubuque at Waterloo.

On June 2 Ballard scored a decisive 16-6 victory over East Marshall. Then things fell apart for a little while.

Ballard suffered eight losses in a nine-game stretch from June 4-18.

The Bombers lost to Urbandale, Carlisle, Gilbert, Don Bosco and Bondurant-Farrar, then crushed Woodward Academy by a 15-0 score. Ballard followed up that win with three more losses as they fell at Winterset, Carroll and Adel-Desoto-Minburn.

Things started turning around for Ballard on June 19. That’s when the Bombers upset Boone by a 3-2 score in eight innings at Slater.

The following day the Bombers split two games at the Ballard Invitational. They outslugged Nevada by an 18-10 score, then lost to top-10 3A power Gilbert by a 4-1 margin.

Ballard whipped Iowa Falls-Alden by a 13-3 score on June 23 and two days later the Bombers downed Collins-Maxwell-Baxter by a 7-4 decision. Carlisle and Bondurant-Farrar handed Ballard back-to-back losses on June 26 and 29, but the Bombers ended June by beginning their hottest stretch of the season.

Ballard scored a big 16-9 non-conference rivalry win over traditional Class 2A power North Polk on June 30. The Bombers then trounced Winterset by a 10-1 score and swept Perry in a doubleheader by scores of 9-7 and 4-3.

ADM ended Ballard’s winning streak on July 6 and No. 1 Pella topped the Bombers two days later. On July 9, Ballard picked up its ninth win 14 games with a 6-5 triumph over Carroll at Slater.

Ballard ended the regular season with three consecutive losses. The Bombers fell at Boone by a 5-0 score, at Dallas Center-Grimes by a 13-8 margin and at Gilbert in an 11-1 decision.

The Bombers opened Class 3A district competition against RRC champion Carlisle. Ballard saw its season come to a close with a 9-3 setback.

“The eight-inning win against Boone, going eight innings with Pella that was ranked No.1 at the time and bottom of the seventh wins against Perry and Carroll were our biggest highlights,” Steenhagen said. “My first season went very well. There were some challenges, but we accomplished a lot and made great strides for the future.”

As a team, Ballard scored 183 runs with a .288 batting average, .388 on-base average and .387 slugging average. The Bombers totaled 44 doubles, nine triples, seven home runs, 111 walks and 75 steals in 91 attempts.

Last season Ballard only scored 132 runs, despite a .302 team batting average.

The Bombers gave up 235 runs with a team earned-run average of 6.29 in 2015. The Bombers recorded a fielding average of .937 with 610 putouts, 184 assists and 53 errors in 847 chances.

Seniors Nathan Carlin, Isaiah Johnson and Marcus Johnson, junior Jaden Moody and sophomore Taylor Roberts were the top hitters for Ballard on the season.

Carlin was outstanding on offense in the field as a second-team all-RRC pick.

On offense Carlin hit .432 with a .522 OBA and .516 slugging average. He hit six doubles and one triple and totaled 24 runs, 18 RBI, 14 walks and eight steals.

Defensively, Carlin spent most of his time at shortstop or on the mound. He recorded 55 assists, 38 putouts and only five errors.

Isaiah hit .306 with a .500 slugging average, four doubles, one triple, two home runs, 17 runs, eight RBI and seven steals. Spending most of his time in the outfield, Johnson made 26 putouts and one assist.

Marcus recorded a .301 average with a .457 OBA and .411 slugging average. He had six doubles and one triple and finished with 16 RBI and 18 walks.

At catcher Marcus finished with 142 putouts and 16 assists and he threw out nine runners from behind the plate.

Moody hit .308 with a .400 OBA, .462 slugging average, six doubles, two triples, 17 runs, 16 RBI and six steals. In the field he recorded 39 putouts, five assists and only three errors.

Roberts hit .306 with one double, seven runs and four steals in 36 at-bats. In the field he made 11 putouts and nine assists.

Juniors Marcus Chieves and Kobe Schulze both just missed hitting .300 for Ballard.

Chieves hit .293 with five doubles, four triples, 19 runs, 13 RBI, 15 walks and 11 steals. In the outfield he made 64 putouts and four assists with no errors on the season.

Schulze recorded a .291 average with two doubles, 20 runs, 12 walks, 10 steals and nine RBI. He had 23 putouts and 20 assists defensively in the infield.

Sophomore first baseman Austin Edwards and junior infielder Jonny Luster both hit over .250 for Ballard.

Edwards hit .274 with four doubles, 15 runs, 12 RBI and 12 walks. In the field he made 130 putouts, eight assists and only two errors.

Luster delivered a .266 average with three doubles and three home runs apiece. He led the team with 24 RBI and scored 10 runs.

In the field, Luster recorded 21 assists and 17 putouts.

Senior Kenny Randolph, freshman Gannon Manfull and junior Kai Reinertson were the other three Ballard regulars to hit over .200.

Randolph had a .233 average with six doubles, nine runs and 10 RBI in 60 at-bats and he also made 31 putouts against three errors in the field. Manfull hit .224 with 11 runs and four RBI and he had 23 putouts and 20 assists in the field.

Reinertson recorded a .214 batting average with one double and two steals in 28 at-bats. He made 23 putouts and 12 assists in the field.

Junior Lane Shaeffer and senior Quinton Erickson each had double-figure at-bat totals and sophomore Clayton Poots went to the plate eight times for Ballard.

Shaeffer hit .188 with three RBI, Erickson scored eight runs and stole three bases and Poots hit .250 with five RBI. In the field Erickson made 11 putouts and nine assists and Poots threw out three base runners at catcher and had just one error in 39 chances.

Sophomore Noah Rosing was the top pinch runner for Ballard. Rosing scored 15 runs and had a team-high 13 steals in 16 chances.

Reinertson logged the most innings on the mound for Ballard. He went 4-5 with a 4.08 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 20 walks in 48 innings.

Freshman Colin Anderson posted the best ERA among pitchers on the staff with over 20 innings at 1.98. He went a perfect 4-0 and had 33 strikeouts against just 10 walks in 28 ? innings.

Erickson was 0-4 with a 6.38 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 26 ? innings, Manfull went 2-1 with a 7.48 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 24 ? innings and Edwards was 2-2 with 16 strikeouts against nine walks in 20 innings. Moody finished 2-2 with 25 strikeouts against 18 walks in 19 ? innings; Luster was 0-3 with 16 strikeouts in 14 ? innings; Carlin had a 1.91 ERA with a 1-0 record, eight strikeouts and four walks in 11 innings; Schulze threw six innings and Chieves put in 5 ? innings of work.

Next season Ballard loses five seniors in Carlin, Isaiah, Marcus, Randolph and Erickson.

“Our seniors were a great bunch of guys who bought into the new things that we established,” Steenhagen said. “They worked hard and did a great job of leading the team through the ups and downs of the season.”

The Bombers have enough talent coming back to continue their upward trend in 2016.

“I think next season will be very strong for us,” Steenhagen said. “We have a lot of guys returning with lots of experience and who are ready to step into the spots that are open from our graduating seniors. We have a lot of guys on the team that are baseball players, more so than other sports. This is important moving forward because it means that they will be focusing on baseball. Some will be playing fall ball and taking lessons throughout the winter. Next year, we return the majority of our pitching staff, as well as guys who play strong defense and have strong bats. This year’s experience will really help the guys moving forward.”