Tremendous dedication in the offseason and better depth on the mound helped the Nevada baseball team deliver its second consecutive winning season in 2018.

The Cubs finished 15-13 overall and went 5-9 in the Heart of Iowa Conference in the second year under head coach Blake Jobe. Last year, Nevada went 14-10 overall after winning just two games in 2016.

“Our boys themselves have changed the culture of Nevada baseball by the way they prepare each day,” Jobe said. “The desire to work and get better, day in and day out, is felt throughout our program.”

Nevada had to deal with the loss of ace pitcher Tyler Shafer off last year’s team. But with five pitchers to consistently rely on, the Cubs were a more well-rounded pitching staff in 2018 and that helped them maintain their winning ways.

Nevada improved their staff earned-run average from 3.48 a year ago to 3.26 during the regular season in 2018. The Cub pitchers held opponents to a .177 batting average and totaled 153 strikeouts and 76 walks in 156 ⅔ innings.

“Our pitching staff took a huge step forward this year,” Jobe said. “We developed a staff that was much deeper and saw five different pitchers throw 19 innings — an increase from only two pitchers who threw 19 or more innings in 2017.”

Among the five Cubs to throw at least 19 innings were junior Dylan Sporrer, senior Preston Cattanach and sophomore Carter Franzen, all recording an ERA under 3.00.

Sporrer went a perfect 5-0 with one save, a 2.46 ERA, 19 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 37 innings during the regular season. Cattanch was 0-2 with a 2.53 ERA, one save, 16 strikeouts and 13 walks in 19 ⅓ innings and Franzen finished 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA, 25 strikeouts and just nine walks in 19 innings.

James Carsrud threw 35 innings and Brock Dutton 20, recording respective ERAs of 3.60 and 3.85 during their junior seasons. Carsrud finished 1-5 with 31 strikeouts and 18 walks and Dutton ended up 1-2 with 26 strikeouts and 11 walks.

Senior Jack Higgins posted a 2.90 ERA with 16 strikeouts and just four walks in 9 ⅔ innings. Eighth-grader Cael Franzen was 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA, eight strikeouts and five walks in 6 ⅓ innings.

Senior Kyle Bauman wound up 1-0 with a 3.50 ERA in four innings, sophomore Jordan Barrett posted a 4.20 ERA in 3 ⅓ innings and senior Cam Shill tossed three innings with five strikeouts and just one walk for the Cubs.

Nevada also showed growth offensively this season. The Cubs scored 229 runs with a team batting average of .360, on-base average of .527 and slugging average of .464 and they had 39 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 159 walks and 110 steals during the regular season.

“Our offense as a team was much increased from 2017,” Jobe said. “Our team scored 10 or more runs nine times in 2018, showing our focus on developing a better team batting approach.”

Last season, Nevada scored just 124 runs.

Higgins, senior shortstop Trent Stahl, Bauman, senior third/first baseman Bronzon Mason, junior outfielder Thomas Crawford and Carsrud all hit over .300 for Nevada in 2018.

Higgins, a valuable defensive player at both third and first base, was a monster at the plate his senior season.

Higgins hit .589 with a .680 OBP and a .904 slugging average in the regular season. He totaled 15 doubles, one triple, two home runs, 19 walks, 32 runs and 45 RBIs.

Stahl posted a .479 batting average, .567 OBP and .562 slugging average. He totaled four doubles, one triple, 36 runs, 24 RBIs and was an impressive 30 of 33 in steal attempts.

Bauman gave Nevada big weapon from the left side of the plate, hitting .400 with a .616 OBP and .467 slugging average. Bauman drew 21 walks and he had one double, one home run, seven steals and 24 runs and RBIs apiece.

Mason delivered a .397 batting average, .604 OBP and .524 slugging average. He connected for five doubles and one home run and had five steals, 22 walks, 28 runs and 22 RBIs.

Crawford came through with a .359 batting average, .573 OBP and .422 slugging average. He walked 27 times, stole 22 bases, hit four doubles, scored 30 times and drove in 23 runs.

Carsrud hit .300 with a .429 OBP. He had eight walks, five steals, one double, 11 runs and nine RBIs.

Cattanach had a strong final year with the bat, hitting .290 with a .495 OBP. He produced 27 walks, 12 steals, two doubles, one homer, six sacrifices, 22 runs and 24 RBIs.

Sophomore catcher Keaton Fry, Dutton and Shill all hit at least .220.

Fry tallied a .261 batting average and .485 OBP. He had one double, nine walks, nine runs and 16 RBIs.

Dutton recorded a .257 batting average with four doubles, one home run, 12 steals, nine walks, 19 runs and 10 RBIs. Shill posted a .222 batting average and .383 OBP with two doubles, nine runs and 14 RBIs.

Nevada finished the season scoring 20 runs or more an impressive four times.

In non-conference play, Nevada scored wins over Eagle Grove (13-7), Baxter (17-3), East Marshall (22-10), Clayton Ridge/Central (21-4), BCLUW (20-1), Bondurant-Farrar (13-9), West Marshall (5-2), Colo-NESCO (6-3) and Iowa Falls-Alden (19-2). The Cubs also picked up a forfeit victory over Wapsie Valley.

Nevada’s losses out of the conference came at the hands of Ballard (7-4), Bondurant-Farrar (5-2) and West Marshall (13-3).

In conference play, Nevada earned its biggest victory over Saydel, splitting with the HOIC runners-up by scoring a 5-4 victory and also suffering a close 6-5 loss. The Cubs split with South Hamilton, winning 22-5 and losing 8-0, and Roland-Story — earning a 6-3 win and suffering a 2-1 setback.

Nevada also went 1-1 against Greene County and PCM. The Cubs topped Greene County in an 8-7 confrontation and suffered an 11-1 setback and against PCM, they earned a 10-6 win and were dealt a 14-4 loss.

North Polk swept Nevada by scores of 13-3 and 12-4. The Cubs also lost two to Gilbert, 14-6 and 12-6.

In the postseason, Nevada faced off against Ballard in the Class 3A district semifinals at Oskaloosa. The Cubs lost 8-3 to end the season.

“The ability to have back-to-back winning seasons shows a step in the right direction,” Jobe said. “While we set out on a tougher schedule in 2018, (we) faced the challenges and our team was able to have a successful campaign. The 2018 season saw our program break six school records. Our team had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in five years.”

Nevada must replace Higgins, Stahl, Cattanach, Bauman, Shill and Mason — not an easy chore for 2019. But with the return of a talented young pitching staff and quality bats in Crawford, Carsrud, Fry and Dutton, the Cubs will attempt for a third-straight winning campaign next summer.