Departures not expected to keep JC downFilling big shoes is part of any successful college program.
Filling big shoes is part of any successful college program.
The Jamestown College baseball team has that task in front of them this season, but they’ve been there and done that before and don’t plan on missing a beat.
“Tradition never graduates and it’s up to this group to carry on the tradition,” said coach Tom Hager. “We lost some very good players that had been with us a long time, but you have to be able to turn the page to the next year and that’s the challenge we have in front of us.”
Despite losing a pro (Alex Kreis now a minor league pitcher for the Washington Nationals), a dependable No. 2 starter (Ryan Iliff) and a whole bunch of thump in the middle of the lineup, don’t expect any dropoff from the Jimmies, because there never is.
The Jimmies have averaged 36 wins per season the last decade, all under Hager, with a pair of NAIA World Series appearances thrown in there.
They start to find out about this new crew on Sunday when they open the season at the newly-roofed Metrodome. They play back-to-back doubleheaders, starting against 2-0 Minnesota-Crookston, and then two more against Olivet Nazarenze (2-1) on Monday.
“We have guys that have been waiting in line and now it’s their turn to step in and see what they can bring to the table,” Hager said. “We feel really good about the potential of this team. We’re looking forward to seeing them out there in game situations.”
Despite losing several notable players, they return a handful of star players again led by center-fielder Max Boe, who has turned in two great seasons already. He hit .333 with 7 home runs and 31 RBIs last season.
“Any time you bring back a player like Max you have to feel good about that. He’s a fun player to watch and he’s going to be the guy we build our lineup around,” Hager said.
Versatile senior Joe Perez will hit out of the leadoff spot. He’ll serve as the primary catcher, but also spend time at second base.
Division I transfer Derek Wallace (Mississippi Valley State) is expected to bring some punch to the middle of the lineup. So too will returner Kyle Mallory (left field) and newcomer Jonathan Minchella (RF), who put up some nice numbers for a JUCO in Illinois last season.
The lineup has good speed and athleticism from top to bottom. They’re strong defensively and deep on the mound, as usual.
Tony Fagan will succeed Kreis as the staff ace. The D-I transfer from Nevada went 4-0 with a 3.98 ERA in 31 2/3 innings last season.
“He can’t change who he is on the mound, but I have no doubt he’ll take (being No. 1) and run with it,” Hager said.
Newcomer Kacy Gardiner and returners Paul Roers of Moorhead, LaMoure’s Ben Watkins (4-0, 3.24 ERA, 25 IP) and Wes Hardy (4-2, 4.63 ERA, 35 IP) round out the deep starting rotation.
The bullpen also will feature several new arms. Hard-throwing sophomore Nick Smart will fill the closer’s role, replacing the reliable Chad Boldt.
“You can’t know for sure how guys are going to react until you put them out there when it counts, but we feel good about the ability and the character of these guys,” Hager said. “They’re fired up. A lot of them having been waiting their turn, and they’re ready to go.”
Jamestown College baseball positional chart
C: Joe Perez, Sr.; Nathan Christiuk, Soph.; Jakob Ohman, Jr.
1B: Derek Wallace, Sr.; Mitch Stevens, Soph.
2B: Spencer Flaten, Soph.; Perez, Sr.
SS: Rudy Strnad, Soph.
3B: Nico Moreno, Jr.; Perry Wilkinson, Sr.
LF: Kyle Mallory, Sr.
CF: Max Boe, Sr.
RF: Jonathan Minchella.
Utility: Matt Achter, Fr.
Starting pitchers: Tony Fagan, RHP, Sr.; Kacy Gardiner, RHP, Jr.; Paul Roers, RHP, Jr.; Ben Watkins, RHP, Jr.; Wes Hardy, RHP, Sr.
Relievers: Nick Smart, RHP, Soph.; Blake Stewart, LHP, Soph.; Zach Mendiola, Fr., RHP; Chris Combo, RHP, Jr.; Zach Thompson, RHP, Fr.; Kyle Shaikoski, RHP, Jr.; Adam Ranger, RHP, Jr.; Ben Mortenson, RHP, Fr.
2010 record: 32-13-1 (DAC champion, NAIA national tournament qualifier)
’10Team batting average: .328. Opponents: 253.
’10 Team ERA: 4.03. Opponent: 6.95.
Season-opener: Sunday vs. Minnesota-Crookston at Metrodome, Minneapolis.
Arizona trip: March 4-9.
Home-opener: April 3 vs. Dakota Wesleyan.
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org