Loboes lock up top seedAll successful baseball teams — high school, college or professional — share a couple of things in common: solid pitching and timely hitting. Of course great defense can be thrown into that debate as well, but when a high school, wood-bat baseball team combines to bat at a clip of .280 with a slugging percentage of .312 and an on-base average of .434, plus a pitching staff that has allowed just 9 earned runs in 19 games with a team ERA of 0.56 and 174 strikeouts, then that team is going to be one tough customer to deal with.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
All successful baseball teams — high school, college or professional — share a couple of things in common: solid pitching and timely hitting.
Of course great defense can be thrown into that debate as well, but when a high school, wood-bat baseball team combines to bat at a clip of .280 with a slugging percentage of .312 and an on-base average of .434, plus a pitching staff that has allowed just 9 earned runs in 19 games with a team ERA of 0.56 and 174 strikeouts, then that team is going to be one tough customer to deal with.
Enter the 2010 LaMoure-Litchville-Marion Loboes.
The Loboes locked up the No. 1 seed for the Class B Region 1 tournament after taking down Kindred-Richland 4-1 on Monday with three region games left to play on the schedule.
L-L-M has dominated region competition this season, battling to a sparkling 9-0 Region 1 record and a 17-2 mark overall. The team’s season effort means the road to the Region 1 title must first go through the Loboes, as L-L-M attempts to make its third trip to the state Class B tournament in its fifth year of existence.
The Loboes wrap up the season with games against Central Cass, Valley City and Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page, before kicking off the Region 1 tournament in LaMoure on May 24.
“It seems like we’ve had chances to get to state every year,” said L-L-M coach Derold Haugen, who has been at the helm of the program since its inception. “We have a very tough region. The tournament is going to be a dogfight.”
But it appears to be a dogfight the Loboes will be ready for, especially if senior starting pitcher and Jamestown College recruit Gaige Dunn has anything to say about it.
The term “virtually unhittable” gets tossed around quite a bit when talking about ace starting pitchers, but the term was coined specifically for starters such as Dunn.
Two hits. That’s what Dunn has allowed to hitters in 5 starts and 7 total trips to the mound this season.
In his 33 1/3 innings pitched, Dunn has recorded 77 strikeouts (57 swinging, 20 looking), while allowing just 3 runs (1 earned) for a team-leading 0.21 ERA.
Dunn also leads the team in wins (6), complete games (4) and shutouts (2).
The senior no-hit Kindred-Richland on Monday to pick up the 4-1 complete game win. Dunn struck out his average of 16 batters per game, but also gave up 6 walks. His only Achilles’ heal, Dunns also lead the team with 28 walks on the season.
“He’s been pretty effective, but he gets himself into a little bit of trouble because he likes to use his curve a little too much,” Haugen said. “His fastball is overpowering, and if he’d stick to the fastball he’d be all right. He does have a good curve, and I can see why he likes to use it, but nobody can touch his fastball.”
Complementing Dunn on the hill is sophomore pitcher Zach Stemen. Stemen has rung up a 4-0 record in 4 starts, with a 0.29 ERA and 24 strikeouts. Stemen has two complete games and a shutout on the season.
L-L-M’s Brett Hample, Cole Gentzkow and Devin Piehl have all also earned at least two wins on the mound this season.
“All of our pitchers have thrown well. We only have 2 losses in non-region games,” Haugen said. “We really haven’t had anyone struggling and our pitching staff is our strength right now.
“Our lineup has been a little inconsistent, with the top hitting and the bottom not, then vice-versa. But you don’t see a lot of hits with the wood bats,” Haugen added. “The big key in high school baseball is you can’t walk people. If you walk people you have to be like Gaige and be dominate.”
Dunn has also been getting it done for the Loboes at the plate this season, leading the team from the No. 3 hole with a .368 batting average, a .474 slugging percentage and an on-base percentage of .554. Dunn leads the team in extra-base hits with 4 doubles and walks (15).
He’ll join former LaMoure teammates Ben Holen and Ben Watkins with the Jimmies next season.
Hample leads off with his .389 batting average, 9 RBIs and team-leading 14 runs scored, and is followed in the order by Gentzkow who’s batting .333, with 2 doubles and 7 RBIs.
In the cleanup spot is Aaron Stemen. Aaron Stemen is also one of 7 Loboes batting over .300 with an average of .349, and he leads the team with 12 RBIs.
Aaron Stemen and Hample pace the team with 10 stolen bases each.
“Brent is our leadoff hitter and he’s guy that takes a lot of pitches and gets things started for us,” Haugen said. “Cole is back from a hand injury and is hitting the ball well, and Aaron is struggling a little right now but early in the year he was our big RBI guy. Everyone’s been contributing.”
With the top spot locked up, the Loboes can now watch the rest of the region duke it out for the No. 2 seed. Teams currently fighting for the No. 2 spot in the Region 1 tourney include Enderlin-Maple Valley and Kindred-Richland, who both have 3 Region 1 losses.
“It makes it kind of nice now. We can set up our pitching for the tournament and not have to worry about who we’re pitching the next week and a half,” Haugen said. “It seems like the last few years the No. 1 seed hasn’t come out as the champion. We do have a target on our back, but at the same time we want to go to state too. It’ll be interesting.”
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com