Tremendous strides were taken by the Nevada baseball program in its first season under head coach Blake Jobe.

The Cubs had a remarkable turnaround in 2017. They finished 14-11 overall and 8-8 in the Heart of Iowa Conference after only winning two games in all of 2016.

“It was exciting to see our boys know they have a chance to beat any team on any given night,” Jobe said. “We saw success in many areas as we went from last in the conference up to a fifth-place finish, while beating four ranked teams in a year.”

Nevada raised its performance level in all areas of play from 2016.

The Cubs scored 124 runs, hitting .328 with a .449 on-base percentage, .367 slugging average, 23 doubles, 117 walks and 51 steals in 52 chances. They gave up 112 runs, totaled 450 putouts, 159 assists and just 24 errors for a .962 fielding average and had a pitching staff earned-run average of 3.48 with 166 strikeouts and 89 walks in 155 innings.

“In my first season, we had an overall growth in all aspects of our program,” Jobe said. “We raised our batting average from .243 in 2016 up to .328, our ERA was lowered from 8.55 down to 3.48 and lastly our fielding percentage raised from .901 up to .962.”

Nevada’s fielding average was the second-best in all of Class 3A.

The season opened with Nevada serving notice it was a program to be reckoned with. The Cubs won their first five games and six of their first seven.

Nevada whipped Collins-Maxwell-Baxter by a 7-1 score, downed eventual HOIC co-champion North Polk by a 5-3 margin, knocked off HOIC power Gilbert in a 2-1 battle and defeated East Marshall (12-7) and South Hamilton (2-0) in its first five games. After a loss to Roland-Story, the Cubs edged Greene County by a 2-1 score on June 5.

From June 7-16 Nevada cooled down, losing five of six games. The Cubs fell at Prairie City-Monroe and Saydel, knocked off CMB by an 11-1 score, then came up short against Ballard and in rematches with North Polk and Gilbert.

But the Cubs refused to let the season slip away. They finished the season almost as strong as they started it, winning seven of their final 11 games in the regular season.

“The boys had to learn how to go from hoping they would win games to knowing they were going to win on any given night,” Jobe said. “With a program that only has had three 10-win years in the last 15-plus years, it is growing into the back of your mind this will be a challenge. We had to instill belief in what we were teaching, as well belief the boys could win every night.”

The Cubs knocked off a strong West Marshall team by a 4-3 score at State Center June 20 and followed that up with a 15-6 victory at South Hamilton. After losses to Roland-Story and Greene County, Nevada swept Iowa Christian Academy in a doubleheader, 10-5 and 11-3.

Saydel — the other HOIC co-champion — defeated Nevada by an 8-1 score on June 30. But the Cubs came back to knock off BCLUW (6-4), PCM (4-1) and Colo-Nesco (17-0) before ending the regular season with a 5-4 loss to Iowa Falls-Alden.

In the 3A district semifinals, Nevada ran into Ballard pitcher Austin Edwards at the wrong time. The Cubs had great pitching and defense, but their season ended with a 2-0 loss as Edwards fired a no-hitter.

“Our hitting at times was our biggest area to grow on as we had struggled in every loss we had in leaving guys on base,” Jobe said. “In nine of our 11 losses, we left 10 or more guys on base. One or two more timely hits and we would have been a twenty plus win team.”

But great fielding and quality pitching were enough to gain a large measure of respect for the Nevada program in 2017. The Cubs finished the season beating four ranked teams in North Polk, Gilbert, PCM and West Marshall.

“We grew exceptionally as a team and built for the future, while battling night in and night out to establish ourselves as a program no one will want to play when all three facets of our game are put together,” Jobe said. “We were able to beat four ranked opponents while in route to having a great first year as a program on the rise.”

Senior Tyler Shafer keyed Nevada’s strong pitching and defense. He went 6-3 in the with an outstanding 0.78 ERA and 92 strikeouts against just 14 walks in 71 ⅔ innings.

Shafer’s strikeout total is a new Nevada single-season record.

Sophomore James Carsrud came on late in the year to go 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 18 walks in 26 ⅔ innings. Preston Cattanach ended up 1-1 with a 6.87 ERA, 13 strikeouts and 12 walks in 18 ⅓ innings.

Cam Shill posted a 4.59 ERA with seven strikeouts in 10 ⅔ innings and Brock Dutton struck out six in 10 ⅔ innings. Macade Matuska threw 6 ⅓ innings and Jack Higgins put in six innings on the mound.

Carsrud, Cattanach, junior outfielder Kyle Bauman, senior reserve Zac Sharp and sophomore Thomas Crawford went the entire regular season without committing an error for Nevada. Carsrud made 32 putouts and 11 assists, Cattanach seven putouts and two assists, Bauman 28 putouts and one assist, Sharp three putouts and Crawford 11 putouts and one assist.

Trent Stahl was sensational at shortstop, committing just two errors with 41 assists and 32 putouts during the regular season. First baseman Drew Hardy also only had two miscues and he totaled 92 putouts and two assists.

Matuska finished with just three errors and 11 assists at catcher and on the mound. He was also tough on opposing base runners, throwing out eight during the regular season.

Higgins delivered 29 assists and 27 putouts against four errors, spending most of his time at third base. Shill had 34 assists and 20 putouts at second base and Shafer finished with 22 putouts and 14 assists during the regular season.

Dutton ended up with 10 putouts and two assists against only one error on the season.

At the plate Shafer, Stahl and Cattanach all hit over .400 during the regular season.

Shafer hit .438 with a .550 OBP and .500 SA. He had five doubles, drove in 18 runs and led the team in runs (22), walks (19) and steals (13).

Stahl posted a .437 batting average, .500 OBP, .493 SA, four doubles, six steals, 15 runs and nine RBI. Cattanach hit .423 witha .565 OBP, .500 SA, 15 walks, four doubles, five steals, 15 runs and 12 RBI.

Matuska, Carsrud, Bronzon Mason and Sharp all hit over .300 during the regular season for Nevada.

Matuska tallied a .377 batting average with a .500 OBP, .410 SA, 16 walks, two doubles, six steals, 12 runs and a team-best 20 RBI. Carsrud delivered a .320 batting average, .528 OBP, 11 walks, one double, nine runs and seven RBI.

Mason hit .306 with one double, nine runs and 15 RBI. Sharp recorded a .353 batting average with a .421 OBP, .412 SA, one double, three runs and two RBI.

Shill just missed the .300 mark with a .299 batting average. He had a .415 OBP, three doubles, three steals, 14 runs and 15 RBI.

Higgins produced a .274 batting average with a .387 OBP, 12 walks, four steals, nine runs and 14 RBI. Crawford hit .229 with a .457 OBP, one double, 11 walks, six steals, nine runs and four RBI.

Dutton had a .250 OBP with a double, run and RBI in seven at-bats. Bauman posted a .309 OBP, walked nine times, stole three bases, collected eight hits, scored four times and drove in two runs.

Hardy finished with two hits, one run and one RBI.

Nevada will have a tough time replacing Shafer, Matuska, Sharp, Hardy and reserves Brody Schomaker and Nic Brown next season. But with Stahl, Shill, Carsrud and Higgins leading an experienced returning group, the Cubs aim to keep moving forward in 2018.

“We return seven of our nine starters, (including) two all-conference players (Stahl and Cattanach), who will lead our team once again,” Jobe said. “The amount of work we put in this off-season will determine what type of jump we take from year one to year two as a program. We hope to be playing for a conference championship next year.”