Colo-NESCO is on track for a winning season. Spencer Hansen and Andrew Grover are big reasons why.
Spencer Hansen let one pitch go by then saw his opportunity during Colo-NESCO's game with Grand View Christian Thursday at Zearing.
Hansen got a hold of an Austin Jordan pitch in the bottom of the first inning and sent the ball rocketing toward center field. The ball sailed until it cleared the fence to give Colo-NESCO a 2-0 lead on its way to a 7-3 victory.
“I knew I was going to take the first pitch no matter what just to get my timing,” Hansen said. “Once I got that he threw me that same exact pitch on the middle-outside corner. Once I saw it I just let it rip.”
It was the first home run of Hansen's career. But he refused to take all the credit for it.
Just before Hansen went to the plate Kenny Cutler reached safely and was sacrificed to third on a grounder by Andrew Grover. The trio has been outstanding in helping Colo-NESCO already surpass last year's win total.
“It’s phenomenal,” Hansen said. “When I’m in the on-deck circle I know Grover is just going to knock Kenny in and he’s going to be on second. Then I can trade places with him. It’s so much fun batting behind those two.”
Cutler is hitting .318 with 22 runs, 17 steals and 11 RBIs. Grover boasts a .358 average with three home runs and 18 RBIs.
With Hansen hitting .386 and recording 10 doubles plus 18 runs and RBIs apiece the Royals have one of the best trio of hitters in the entire Iowa Star Conference.
“That first part of our lineup is dangerous,” Colo-NESCO head coach Brandon Frohwein said. “Kenny gets on he’s fast, so they’ve got to worry about him, then you’ve got two power guys right behind him. The two guys behind them – Kaleb Gray and Lucas Frohwein – are good on-base guys.”
Colo-NESCO is hitting .279 as a team. The Royals average 7.5 runs per game.
Last year Colo-NESCO averaged 6.1 runs. A big reason for this year's increase in production has been the emergence of Grover.
Grover only hit .220 with seven RBIs last year.
“This year he got his swing figured out,” Cutler said. “He’s absolutely blasting the ball.”
Gaining strength has played a huge role in Grover's success.
“I hit the weights hard every week,” Grover said. “It’s fun to be able to step up and support these guys.”
The added power has given Grover faith in his ability to succeed as a hitter.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to have confidence stepping into the batter’s box,” Grover said. “That’s what I’ve got this year. I’m not afraid to go in there and swing the bat.”
It also helps to have Hansen hitting behind him.
“You’ve got to throw Grover a pitch or you’ve got to face Spencer,” Frohwein said. “If Grover gets on you can’t walk Spencer because there are runners on base. That’s really ignited our offense this year.”
Hansen is the most decorated Royal player. He was an all-Iowa Star Conference pitcher as a sophomore, going 8-0 with an outstanding 1.75 ERA.
He's been a little off his game on the mound so far in 2021. Hansen is 3-2 with a 3.32 ERA.
“I’m starting off really slow — I don’t really what the deal is," Hansen said. "My freshman year I was having trouble starting games. Last year I figured out how to start games, but I've lost it again. I’m just trying to figure it out again. I’m throwing strikes, I’m just not the vintage Spencer Hansen that I was last year.”
That drop off hasn't hurt the Royals at all this year thanks in part to its improved offense. But a deeper pitching staff has also played a big role.
“Last year Spencer had a really good year pitching and we won a lot of games when he pitched, but we didn’t when he didn’t pitch,” Frohwein said. “This year it doesn’t matter who is pitching. We have five or six guys who have wins this year and last year we had two. We’ve also been able to win a lot of games by scoring runs and we couldn’t do that in the past.”
Drew Banks missed last season with an injury. The sophomore is 4-1 with a 2.33 ERA in 2022.
"Losing Banks was huge for us because we had to rotate younger guys last year," Hansen said. "That lost us a lot of games. Having Banks back we have two main pitchers and our younger guys got that experience and they're stepping up in relief."
Ben Rouse is 2-2 with a 2.73 ERA. Lucas Frohwein, Breckin Clatt and Alex Rouse have one victory apiece.
The great all-around play from Hansen, Grover's strong hitting and the improved depth have resulted in a 12-9 record for the Royals through 21 games. Last year they finished 11-15.
Colo-NESCO is pursuing its first winning season since 2018 and only its third since 2011. With five wins in their last seven games the Royals look well on their way to finishing above .500 and they also have a shot at the ISC South Division championship.
“You’ve just got to show up and win winnable games, compete in the ones you shouldn’t win and try and win some of those,” Cutler said. “We want to start a winning attitude.”