2017 Baseball Preview
By BRANDON HURLEY
A reved up dedication to pitching could pay big dividends for a Greene County baseball team searching for consistent offense entering the 2017 season.
A four-deep rotation – fairly unusual to a high school squad – will anchor the Ram staff this summer.
Greene County was shutout 15-0 in four innings in last summer’s regional game against Boone and have opened the year with a 3-5 record. The ability to lean on defense will be a key to success this year.
A new pitch count rule effective this season will allow Greene County to implore their four-headed rotation more often and effectively, manager Mark Sawhill hopes.
“This year, because of the way the pitching rules [are], that’s what we are going to be looking at, our pitching staff [as a whole],” Sawhill said. “Austin Delp was our ace last year. Ben Wilkins will be No. 2 and they will be our two work horses this year.”
Delp amassed a 3-2 record as a freshman with a team-leading 2.92 ERA and 30 strikeouts. The sophomore has already compiled a 1.56 ERA and 20 strikeouts in three starts. Wilkins made just one appearance a year ago, throwing two and two-thirds innings and did not allow a single run.
Dylan Fouch (16Ks) and Wade Adcock (11 Ks) will round out the Ram rotation this summer.
New to 2017, a pitcher is allowed to throw on no days rest if he throws less than 25 pitches. An athlete must rest a minimum of four days if he throws between 91-110 pitches. Three days rest is required if the pitcher reaches 66 to 90 pitches while two days rest is required for 26-40 pitches.
The rule also states a pitcher cannot exceed 110 total pitches on consecutive days. The new pitch count is meant to protect young athlete’s arms – no pitcher can throw more than 180 pitches in a given week from Sunday through Saturday.
“Those four (Delp, WIlkins, Adcock, Fouch) will have to carry us. We will make some noise with those guys if we can get the bats going,” Sawhill said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the (new pitch count) will work out. It’s going to change the game a little bit. You [need] to have a lot of pitchers and we probably have half the team that can throw somewhere down the line.”
The Rams were 11-17 a season ago and 5-11 in the Heart of Iowa Conference.
An experienced batting order will try to replace Reid Lamoureux’s .462 batting average – which was third in the Heart of Iowa Conference – as well as Branden Miller’s 18 runs batted in.
Junior Wade Adcock tied for the team-lead in RBI with Miller while Tom Gannon collected 27 hits for a .351 batting average. Delp batted .311 with 12 runs batted in and 10 stolen bases as a sophomore.
“There are a lot of good things that we bring back from last year,” Sawhill said. “Tom Gannon, first team all-conference, he’s tough. It’s nice to have him back there. He’s a good leader, too.”
After posting a goose egg in the season’s first game, the Rams have produced 12 runs over the last two – an 8-0 win over CMB and a 7-4 loss to Roland-Story. The Rams scored 166 runs a season ago and posted a .297 team average.
“We have to go out and hit the ball. I think some times we try and guess what we think the [pitcher] is doing,” Sawhill said. “You go out and be in charge of the baseball. He’s trying to keep you off-balance but if you attack it you will have success. We’ve taken a lot of batting practice so far. We are going to have to score runs this year.”
Senior Chase Stoline will kick start the offense in the lead-off spot, scoring 18 runs a season ago while swiping a team-leading 17 stolen bases.
Trey Tucker – Greene County’s all-time leading scorer in basketball – returns to play for his senior season after not going out his junior year. He's hitting .500 with a conference-leading six doubles through eight games so far. WIlkens will have an entire season to find his groove in 2017 after missing a significant chunk for vacation a year ago.
In order for the pitching staff to reach its full potential, Sawhill needs his defense to step up this season. The Rams committed 65 errors last summer, which was fourth most in the conference.
“Defensively, we have some question marks,” Sawhill said. “We have moved some people around and we have to get that cleaned up a bit because we are making some mistakes we shouldn’t make.”
Saydel returns as a heavy favorite to win the Heart of Iowa Conference again this year, navigating the conference schedule unscathed to the tune of 15-0 and a 28-6 overall record. The Eagles’ Devin Porter, who led the conference in batting with a .518 average, seven home runs, 59 hits and 60 RBI, returns for his senior season and should be a force yet again. North Polk’s Colby Cupp batted .446 in 29 games. Roland-Story ace Zach Shadlow struck out 94 batters while maintaining a 2.05 ERA last summer as a sophomore. CMB lost Brady Stover (7-1, .64 ERA, 140Ks) to graduation last season.
“It’s a tough conference for baseball, it really is,” Sawhill said. “Saydel, Gilbert, Roland-Story, they are all traditionally very good. I think we should be up there battling for a top four spot. But it’ll be up to us if we want to achieve it. Hands down, Saydel is the best in the conference. Hopefully, we are in the mix.”
Class 3A regional action kicks off July 9.
The 2017 state tournament will be held July 21-22 and July 24-29 at Principal Park in downtown Des Moines.