Bounce Back: After losing senior-dominated roster, baseball team prepares for strong season

Although the baseball team took a hard hit and lost nine seniors last season, head coach Nick Klein said that he is excited for the new energy to be brought by a younger team this season.

“I’m looking forward to seeing guys compete for spots, so, it will be fun to see what the makeup of this team is and how guys approach the different position battles.”

Some difficulties past seasons have faced are mental errors and off games.

“There are so many little things that can happen during a game, and being able to handle them can be the difference in the outcome,” Klein said.

Klein said he is looking to tighten that up this season to become a more aggressive team, both mentally and physically.

“We have to be able to take adversity and use it as a motivator to achieve something positive.  You always run into some games that you’re just not hitting, or you’re making mistakes in the field, or you’re just feeling worn down,” Klein said. “In those games, you have to be able to block that stuff out, move on to the next pitch, and win the game by just out-working the other team.”

The boys will face the West High School Wahawks May 21 in Waterloo.

They have started and are preparing like any other team facing their rival opponent, by cleaning up mistakes and working hard to swoop a first win.

“We are focusing on the fundamentals of the game right now and trying to clean up all the little things. Good teams have to be prepared for any situation at any time, and that’s what we need to be ready for right at the first game.”

Fundamentals and focus are keys to making a great team, but another important part of a team is positive leaders.

Klein named seniors Ben Paxson and Jacob Renda as dedicated players.

“They are guys that we need to log some quality innings on the mound and are strike-throwers. They have the ability to set the tone that way by going to the mound and competing. They exemplify what we need out of pitchers.”

Renda said that by being a senior, he gets to play as a role model on and off the field to give examples to younger players.

“My role is being a leader for the younger kids and holding everybody accountable for their actions.”

Renda said he hopes to have a more solid and aggressive defense than last year’s team because there’s more versatility with each position in this season.

He also said besides wanting to win a state championship or beating Cedar Rapids Prairie, he said he looks forward to spending time with his teammates in his last season of high school baseball.

Another few leaders are juniors Casey Sole, Mitch Young, Tate Johnson and Conner Gerdes.

“As a team, we want to play better defense and commit less errors, and don’t beat ourselves up. This summer I’m looking forward to playing ball with the boys,” Gerdes said.

Klein said that these young men have put in the time and work ethic to play fast, scoop starting positions and their confidence in themselves and most of all, the team.

A team goal for Gerdes, the coaching staff and the rest of the team is to make it past the first round of sub state and to be the team to beat in their conference.

“We have to be a team that will never stop playing hard no matter what the score is, and is always pressuring.  As a team, our goal needs to be that they just keep improving and building. Again, we’re young, so we have a lot to learn,” Klein said.

And by being young, Klein said that this also means there is a lot of room to grow.

“Hopefully they are much better players, and we’re a much better team at the end of the year than when we start it.  If that happens, then anything can happen in the playoffs.”

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