Royals lose six one-run games

The Colo-Nesco baseball team battled through some early obstacles to achieve a double-digit win total in 2013.

The Royals had to adjust to a new coaching staff as Brandon Kelley took over the program. They also had to fight through weather issues at the start of practice and into the early weeks of the season.

But once everyone became accustomed to the new coaching staff and the weather settled down, Colo-Nesco started to really show progress.

The Royals finished 12-18 overall and 7-7 in the Iowa Star Conference. Those marks were just a slight drop from the 10-12 overall and 8-6 conference records the team produced in 2012.

"Our record didn’t indicate the improvement that the team made throughout the year," Kelley said. "We lost six one-run ball games that could’ve easily gone the other way. We started five freshmen most nights, which is asking a lot out of them, but they did a nice job battling each game and our older guys did a nice job of helping them learn as they went along. The kids never gave up and always found a way to make things interesting and give us a chance to win."

Colo-Nesco started off 1-3. The Royals lost a 3-2 opener against West Marshall, out-slugged Lynnville-Sully by a 14-8 score and then suffered 10-7 and 3-1 losses to Madrid and I-35 in Granger.

On June 3, Colo-Nesco whipped GMG by a 7-2 score on the road to begin a four-game winning streak. The Royals also took down Southeast Webster-Grand by a 9-3 score at Principal Park, toppled Tripoli by a 6-2 margin and crushed Meskwaki by a 16-1 score during the streak.

"Playing Southeast Webster-Grand at Principal Park was a memory the guys will have for the rest of their lives," Kelley said. "Most high school baseball players never get a chance to play on a AAA ball field, so to be able to experience that atmosphere was really cool."

The rest of June was a bit of a roller coaster for the Royals.

Colo-Nesco followed its win streak with a four-game losing skid and then scored three wins in four games. The Royals ended the month with losses to Dunkerton, Colfax-Mingo and North Tama.

Kelley said a loss was actually the biggest highlight of that stretch. The Royals fell by a 5-4 score to Don Bosco in a June 17 game and the Dons went on to qualify for the state tournament in 1A.

"I think our Don Bosco game, where we led 4-1 going into the top of the sixth, was a big highlight for us," Kelley said. "Even though we ended up losing, it showed how much our team had improved from early on in the year."

July opened with Colo-Nesco splitting a doubleheader with Clarksville and pounding CAL. The Royals dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker to BCLUW on July 5 and then split with South Hardin and Garner-Hayfield/Ventura at Waterloo.

The regular season ended with the Royals putting up two great fights against larger schools, only to come up short each time. Colo-Nesco was handed a 4-3 loss at East Marshall on July 9 and the Royals suffered a 4-1 home loss to Nevada two days later.

Colo-Nesco opened Class 1A district play against Belle Plaine July 16 in Brooklyn. The Royals were again handed another close loss, dropping a 5-2 decision to end the season.

As a team Colo-Nesco actually outscored its opposition on the season. The Royals put up 157 runs and allowed 155.

With senior workhorses J.T. Adams and Brandyn Niemeyer leading the way, the Colo-Nesco pitching staff posted a solid 3.43 earned-run average with 239 strikeouts against 142 walks in 181 2/3 innings. Last year Colo-Nesco had an ERA of 3.96.

"Our biggest strength was probably our pitching," Kelley said. "It was pretty solid all year and our defense was usually pretty reliable."

Colo-Nesco had a team fielding average of .901 with 76 errors, 166 assists and 524 putouts in 766 chances. Royal catcher Taylor Hill also threw out eight runners on the season.

Adams posted a 5-7 record on the mound. He led Colo-Nesco with a 2.05 ERA and he had 93 strikeouts and 57 walks in a team-best 85 1/3 innings pitched.

Niemeyer threw 76 innings and went 5-10 with a 3.22 ERA. Niemeyer topped the team in strikeouts with 117 and he issued 55 walks.

Freshman Brady Stoeffler was the only other Royal to throw over 10 innings. Stoeffler went 1-0 with a 4.10 ERA, 23 strikeouts and 11 walks in 13 2/3 innings.

Adam Lytle finished 0-1 with a 6.56 ERA in 5 1/3 innings and Steven Cutler also threw 1 1/3 innings for the Royals.

On offense Colo-Nesco posted a team batting average of .233 with an on-base average of .379 and slugging average of .290. The Royals totaled 26 doubles, four triples and two home runs and they drew 139 walks and stole 71 bases as a team.

"Our offense seemed to struggle at times," Kelley. "Our biggest weakness was probably our hitting and lack of experience."

Hill, Adams and Niemeyer were the most productive hitters for the Royals, as they each hit around .300.

Hill posted a team-best .305 average with a .452 on-base average and .402 slugging average. He hit six doubles and one triple, scored 28 runs, walked 21 times, went a perfect 20 of 20 in steals and drove in 11 runs.

Adams hit right at .300 and had a .472 on-base average and team-best .438 slugging average. Adams also paced the Royals in runs with 29 and he tallied 20 walks, 17 steals, six doubles, one triple and one home run.

Niemeyer just missed the .300 mark as he finished with a .299 batting average. Niemeyer led the team in RBI with 19 and he added 21 runs, 13 steals, 12 walks, five doubles, one triple and one home run.

Stoeffler and seniors Lytle and Tyler Guy were the other regulars to hit over .200 for Colo-Nesco.

Stoeffler posted a .228 average and he led the team with 25 walks and a .476 OBA. Stoeffler also scored 14 runs, drove in nine and stole six bases.

Lytle hit .247 with four doubles and one triple. He knocked in 11 runs, scored 16 and added 10 steals.

Guy finished with a .233 average with one double and 10 RBI. He also drew 10 walks.

Senior Dayton Gilmore posted a .222 average with two doubles and four RBI in 18 at-bats during the year.

Sophomore Payton Larson and freshmen Grant Tiarks, Tanner Clatt, Brandon Jacobs and Cutler all had at least 25 at-bats during the season.

Larson hit . 189 with three runs and four RBI and Tiarks posted a .152 average with a .417 on-base average, 13 walks, seven runs and four RBI. Clatt hit .146 with nine runs and eight RBI, Jacobs hit 1.35 with eight walks and three runs and Cutler scored seven times and drew eight walks.

Christian Montgomery – another freshman – hit .167 with six runs in 12 at-bats. Senior Jake Webb added one run and RBI apiece in 14 at-bats.

Next season Colo-Nesco has some big shoes to fill with the loss of Adams and Niemeyer. The Royals also must replace the steady and reliable services of Guy and Lytle.

"Our senior class will be hard to replace because Brandyn and J.T pitched a lot of varsity innings and Tyler and Adam were solid defenders who also gave us some good at-bats," Kelley said. "Those four guys lead the team in most statistical areas."

That means that Kelley will have to overcome experience issues in 2014.

"The team will be really young," Kelley said. "Taylor Hill will be the only senior, but he is a great catcher and somebody you can build your team around. If the young guys step up and get a little stronger, they could have a very bright future."