Inexperience, depth issues, a tough schedule and a new pitching rule made the 2017 baseball season a challenging rebuilding period for Colo-Nesco.

After losing an outstanding senior class off last year’s 15-11 team that set a school mark for wins in a season, the Royals sputtered through a 7-21-1 season in 2017, finishing 5-12-1 in the Iowa Star Conference.

“The season did not play out like we had hoped,” Colo-Nesco head baseball coach Brandon Frohwein said. “We ended up utilizing a lot of pitchers, both due to the new pitch-count rule and also due to a couple of very busy weeks. Many of the pitchers were getting their first varsity experience. We played a pretty challenging non-conference schedule, including eight teams that were (Class) 2A or higher.”

The new pitch-count rule limited sophomore through senior pitchers to 110 pitches per day and 180 per week, the exception being that a pitcher could exceed the limit against the last batter he faced as long as he was below it before that at-bat. Eighth-grade and freshman pitchers were limited to 90 pitches per day and 150 a week.

“We had to replace almost the entire pitching staff from last season (and) the majority of pitchers were pitching their first year of varsity baseball,” Frohwein said. “We struggled with consistency on the mound.”

For the season, Colo-Nesco gave up 314 runs with a staff earned-run average of 8.38. The Royal pitchers struck out 91 batters and had 171 walks in 168 innings.

Junior Bryce Niemeyer was the top pitcher for Colo-Nesco. Niemeyer went 3-6 with a 6.27 ERA, 28 strikeouts and 25 walks in 41 ⅓ innings.

Freshman Brighton Clatt was 1-2 with a 6.77 ERA, six strikeouts and 15 walks in 20 ⅔ innings and junior Sean Cutler finished 2-1 with an 8.17 ERA, 15 strikeouts and 26 walks in 30 innings.

Kelly Gray finished with a 7.20 ERA, three strikeouts and seven walks in 11 ⅔ innings and Philip Bower had a 7.88 ERA in 2 ⅔ innings with one strikeout and three walks. Matthew Hill posted an 0-4 record with an 8.06 ERA, 23 strikeouts and 34 walks in 28 ⅔ innings and Mason Lytle was 0-2 with seven strikeouts and 20 walks in 10 ⅓ innings.

Shawn Gilbert went 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA, three strikeouts and eight walks in seven innings and Jacob Clatt ended up 0-2 with three strikeouts and 13 walks in 8 ⅔ innings. Ryan Banks was 0-3 with two strikeouts in seven innings.

On offense, Colo-Nesco was a little more productive. The Royals scored 126 runs, hit .259 with 26 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 53 steals, and they posted a .355 on-base percentage and .309 slugging average.

“The top of our batting order was pretty solid, with Garret Tiarks, Matthew Hill and Sean Cutler all have solid seasons at the plate. We were pretty inconsistent with the rest of our batting order. Jacob Clatt did provide some power with two home runs on the season.”

The Royal defense fielded at a .906-percent rate, with 465 putouts and 170 assists in 701 chances.

Hill, Cutler and Tiarks all hit over .320 for Colo-Nesco on the season.

Hill posted a .437 average and finished one hit shy of the school record with 38. Hill tallied a .529 slugging average, .505 OBP, six doubles, one triple, 26 runs and 12 RBI.

Playing primarily at first base along with his pitching duties, Hill recorded 103 putouts and 15 assists defensively.

Cutler hit .361 with a .413 OBP, .410 slugging average, four doubles, 14 runs and a team-best 26 RBI. He had 30 putouts and 21 assists in the field.

Tiarks hit .322 from the leadoff spot with a .413 OBP and .389 slugging average. He scored 18 runs, stole nine bases, drove in nine runs and connected for six doubles.

In the field, Tiarks recorded 55 putouts and 34 assists, playing primarily at shortstop.

Jacob Clatt recorded a .227 batting average with a .341 slugging average, four doubles, two home runs, seven runs and 18 RBI. In the field, he made 37 putouts, five assists and only three errors.

Bower, Lytle, Brighton Clatt and Gray all hit over .200 for Colo-Nesco.

Bower registered a .245 average with a .310 OBP, two doubles, six runs and six RBI and he made 15 putouts, two assists and only two errors in the field. Lytle tallied a .234 average with a .314 OBP, three doubles, one triple, 13 runs and 11 RBI and he had 45 putouts, four assists and just two errors in the field.

Brighton Clatt hit .231 with a .333 OBP, two runs and four RBI, and he made three assists and two putouts with no errors. Gray recorded a .207 average and .343 OBP with 17 walks, 22 runs, 13 steals, six RBI and one double and he produced 43 assists and 29 putouts with four errors in the field.

Junior Garrett Packer spent most of the season behind the plate for Colo-Nesco. Packer had a .328 OBP with 12 walks, five runs and two RBI and he threw out six base runners and had 86 putouts, 15 assists and four errors in the field.

Senior Parker Eley finished with 25 putouts, eight assists, four walks, two runs and one RBI and Niemeyer had a .329 OBP with six runs, four RBI, 32 assists and 17 putouts. Banks had a .231 OBP with three runs, one RBI and five putouts.

Colo-Nesco’s seven victories came against Riceville (10-9), Collins-Maxwell-Baxter (22-12), GMG (7-0), Clarksville (4-2), South Hamilton (15-5), Janesville (4-1) and Tripoli (5-3). The Royals also settled for a tie with Ricevlle (5-5) during the second game of a doubleheader, when the game had to be called and couldn’t be made up.

“Two of the biggest wins on the season were wins over CMB and South Hamilton,” Frohwein said. “The CMB win included a grand slam by Jacob Clatt. Bryce Niemeyer pitched a couple of complete game wins over Clarksville and Tripoli. Brighton Clatt pitched a complete game against Janesville on 90 pitches for his first varsity win.”

Tiarks and Eley will be the only losses for Colo-Nesco to graduation.

“Garret had a very solid senior season, batting over .300 as our leadoff hitter, and being a leader on and off the field,” Frohwein said. “Garret will be very difficult to replace on the 2018 team. Parker is an example of the type of player that any coach would like to have on the team. He shows up every day and does whatever is asked of him. He was our everyday right fielder and really improved his defense this season. The two seniors will be missed. Not just for their play on the field, but because they are high character guys that set a good example for the younger guys.”

With everyone else returning, the Royals expect to make big strides in 2018.

“If we put in the work in the off season, I can see us having a big improvement in the 2018 season,” Frohwein said. “Instead of coming into the season with little varsity experience, we should have experience at almost every position. Ultimately, how well we do in 2018 will come down to how much work we put in before our first game next season.”