The Nevada baseball team went through some rough patches in its first season under the direction of new head coach Patrek Tufts, but the Cubs did get several younger players valuable experience in 2019.
Nevada entered the season having to replace five of its top six hitters and one of its top pitchers off last year’s squad that won 15 games. That left the Cubs with a lot of inexperienced faces in the lineup, in addition to having to adjust to a new coach.
As a result, Nevada struggled to get over the hump in several games. But despite finishing 7-21 overall and 2-12 in the Heart of Iowa Conference, the Cubs did have their bright spots.
“We didn’t get the win total that we wanted, but we had a lot of close losses and as we develop and improve over the offseason, I think a lot of those close losses will turn into wins,” Tufts said. “The kids battled and we proved we could compete with anyone; we just have to do it for seven innings. I’m proud of the kids because it would have been easy to mentally quit when things got tough, but they didn’t. They kept grinding.”
The Cubs opened the season by winning their first two games. They whipped Eagle Grove, 11-1, and edged Saydel by an 8-5 score.
The next two weeks were rough for Nevada. The Cubs dropped 10 in a row.
Nevada lost to Carroll and South Hamilton by scores of 5-3 and 6-1, fell to North Polk by a 9-1 score, suffered close 4-3 and 5-3 losses to Prairie City-Monroe and Greene County respectively and came up short against two top-10 Class 3A programs in Gilbert (6-2) and Ballard (10-0). The Cubs also dropped both games of a doubleheader to Roland-Story (8-0 and 5-2) and came up short in a rematch with Saydel (8-6).
The loss to Gilbert was Nevada’s first game at the brand-new Nevada Cubs Baseball Field. On June 17, the Cubs earned their first win in the nice new ballpark, edging South Hamilton in a 1-0 pitcher’s duel to snap their losing streak.
Nevada put up a good fight at West Marshall on June 18 before falling by a 2-0 decision. North Polk handed the Cubs an 8-3 setback the next day in a makeup game and Carlisle defeated Nevada by a 15-3 score on June 20.
Nevada fought Greene County hard before losing, 6-4, on June 24 and the next day the Cubs led Webster City most of the way before suffering a 9-5 setback.
The Cubs regrouped to split their next four games before the July 4 holiday. The Cubs defeated Colo-NESCO (6-1), lost to Gilbert (6-3), edged Knoxville (5-4) and then suffered a close 4-2 loss at Humboldt.
In its first game after the holiday, Nevada played South Tama tough before losing, 3-0. The Cubs fell to PCM (10-4) and Grinnell (8-1) in their next two games, but rebounded to end the regular season on a high note.
Nevada took down Perry (5-2) and Iowa Falls-Alden (8-7) in its final two games of the regular season.
The Cubs opened 3A district play with a semifinal matchup against Oskaloosa in Oskaloosa. They played a solid game before succumbing by an 8-4 score to end the season.
“We had some really nice team wins — 1-0 versus South Hamilton and the win against Knoxville was a fun one as well,” Tufts said. “It was also great to get to break in our new stadium. I’m happy that the kids get to play in such a great environment.”
“The biggest challenges for us were mental more than anything,” Tufts said. “Baseball is such a mental game, and it’s just a learning process to realize that you have to control each at bat, each pitch and each play with the same attitude. We made huge strides on that and I’m excited to see our growth this offseason.”
Offense is an area Nevada struggled a lot with during the first half of the season, but became respectable by the end of the campaign. The Cubs scored 95 runs, hitting .222 as a team, with a .317 on-base percentage and they tallied 70 walks, 65 steals, 26 doubles and one triple.
In the field, Nevada recorded 522 putouts and 157 assists against 69 errors in 748 chances. The Cubs had a team fielding average of .908.
Senior outfielder Thomas Crawford, junior catcher Keaton Fry, freshman shortstop Cael Franzen and freshman Ty Dittmer were Nevada’s most consistent hitters.
Crawford post a .325 batting average with a .429 OBP, 15 walks, 13 steals, five doubles, 15 runs and seven RBIs. In the field Crawford made 27 putouts and four assists with no errors.
Fry recorded a .278 average with a .441 OBP, 12 walks, six doubles, 10 runs and seven RBIs. Behind the plate Fry threw out 15 runners and made 199 putouts and 26 assists.
Franzen also hit .278 and he had nine steals, two doubles and eight runs and RBIs apiece. Dittmer posted a .256 average, 13 runs and four steals.
Seniors Connor Hines, Brock Dutton, Ryne Isleb, Dylan Sporrer and James Carsrud, junior Ross Uthe, sophomore Grant Higgins, freshman Gavin Melohn and eighth-grader Karter Beving all had double-digit at-bats for Nevada during the season.
Hines had a .267 OBP with one double, nine runs, six RBIs and four steals. He made 23 putouts and two assists in the field.
Dutton posted a .280 OBP with three doubles, nine walks, 13 steals, seven runs and nine RBIs. Dutton recorded 31 putouts and eight assists defensively.
Isleb tallied a .222 average with a .323 OBP, two doubles, six runs and five RBIs. Spending most of his time at second base, Isleb had 11 assists and five putouts with only one error.
Sporrer delivered a .357 OBP with four runs and two steals and he registered six assists and two putouts. Carsrud hit .212 with five RBIs and four runs and steals apiece and he wound up with 42 putouts and 10 assists.
Uthe had a .256 OBP with five doubles, eight runs and 10 RBIs. Playing mainly at third base, he made 31 assists and 22 putouts.
Higgins recorded a .250 OBP with a double and six RBIs. He made 140 putouts and two assists, spending most of his time at first base.
Melohn hit .222 with a .375 OBP, a double, triple, four runs, six steals and one putout before suffering a season-ending injury. Beving accounted for two hits, one run and one steal and he made five putouts and one assist with only one error.
“I wasn’t surprised by the successes of our seniors — they have worked hard to reach those heights,” Tufts said. “Our young players were a huge surprise to us this year. Cael Franzen and Ty Dittmer were great offensive sparks for us. Also, Gavin Melohn was great for us before his injury. Looking forward to getting him back.”
Nevada’s pitching staff gave up 168 runs with a staff earned-run average of 4.45. The Cubs finished with 204 strikeouts and 103 walks in 184 innings.
Sporrer, Dutton, junior Jordan Barrett, sophomore Max Hoffman, Franzen and junior Carter Franzen handled most of the pitching duties for Nevada.
Sporrer was 4-4 with a 3.52 ERA, 41 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 49 ⅔ innings and Dutton finished 2-6 with a 4.33 ERA, 64 strikeouts and 21 walks in 43 ⅔ innings. Barrett ended up 0-3 with a 4.70 ERA, 34 strikeouts and 24 walks in 22 ⅓ innings and Hoffman was 0-3 with a 4.92 ERA, 16 strikeouts and 14 walks in 21 ⅓ innings.
Cael Franzen threw 19 ⅔ innings and went 1-1 with a team-best 1.78 ERA, 13 strikeouts and six walks. Carter Franzen wound up 0-1 with a 6.88 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 16 walks in 19 ⅓ innings.
Carsrud threw 6 ⅔ innings, Higgins one inning and Uthe ⅓ of an inning.
Crawford, Sporrer, Dutton, Carsrud, Hines, Isleb and reserve Dalton Baker will be tough to replace next season. But the Cubs should have a lot more overall experience heading into 2020.
“I am optimistic,” Tufts said. “We will have a wealth of youth talent that will push our veterans and we will have a great group of leaders to help those young players along the way. We have a lot of work to do. I know that and the kids know it. I think we’re ready to make the jump, though.”