Poll position; Jimmies 24th in final poll
Earning a spot in the last poll of the season is a significant feat for the Jimmie baseball team.
“It’s been a while since we had the opportunity to finish in the top 25 and this team was certainly deserving,” said head coach Tom Hager. “It was an outstanding season from beginning to end, but hopefully for our younger players there’s some motivation to try and take it up another notch or two.”
The Jimmies won the North Star Athletic Association regular season and tournament titles, then defeated Doane College (Neb.) in the Opening Round of the NAIA National Tournament. Doane finished 16th in the poll. The Jimmies lost their other two tournament games, but both were competitive, including a 4-0 loss to Tabor College of Kansas, which went on to win two games at the World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. It was similar to 2013 when the Jimmies beat No. 2-ranked Oklahoma City University in the Opening Round of nationals.
“I think what the last two years have shown us is that we’re close. There’s still another step we have to take clearly, but we’re not far away,” Hager said.
The Jimmies finished the season with a 36-10 record, but Hager said the 2014 team was about more than wins and losses.
“I can’t stress enough how awesome of a group we had this past year. It was just a really fun team to be around. The coaching stuff had a really enjoyable time with this team,” he said. “You can have all the talent in the world, but chemistry plays a huge part in a team having success and this team had great chemistry.”
It also had plenty of talent, some of which won’t be back.
The right side of the infield in first baseman Mitch Stevens and second baseman Nolan Skowronek graduated. Stevens hit .352 with five home runs and 39 RBI, while Skowronek posted a .355 average, and both possessed engaging personalities.
Center fielder Spencer Flaten, a regular since his freshman year, also is gone.
Kyle Shaikoski, who finished 4-0 with a 2.31 earned run average, and closer Nick Smart are among the pitchers out of eligibility. Smart has been in Jamestown for five years.
“We’re losing some very good players and we’ll miss them, but that’s part of college sports,” Hager said. “It opens the door for other guys and hopefully they step up.”
Also back is ace reliever Ryan Sheeley, who had seven wins and allowed just four earned runs in 33 innings.
Clean-up hitter Landon Uetz (.373, 4 HR, 42 RBI), Paul Sitkowski (.345, 2 HR, 33 RBI), Matt Achter (.343) and shortstop Rudy Strnad (.342, 39 runs, 24 stolen bases) are strong building blocks for what appears to be a continued bright future.
“We have a really strong nucleus coming back with the returning players and the recruiting class we’ve been able to put together,” Hager said. “The returning players want to take it a step further. Our goal is to get to the World Series.
“This new group will have to roll up their sleeves and get to work.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at email@example.com