Norse set victory record, as season comes to a close

Todd ThorsonSports Writertthorson@storycityherald.com

The Roland-Story baseball team went through a bit of a restructuring this season, with some new faces coming on board and only three seniors to lead the Norse through the 2016 season. Coach Chris Hill, in his 10th season at the helm of the R-S program, had to shuffle his personnel to come up with the right combination. But it didn’t take long. The talent and dedication was there from the beginning. It was just a matter of putting it all together to make it work on the field.

“We had a wide range in age this year for our team,” said Hill. “It took us a little longer to put the pieces together and get our best team on the field. By the end of the season I felt we had a very solid defense and pitching staff that could compete with anyone.”

Coach Hill has slowly and methodically put together a baseball program that will rival any of the top programs in the state. With three consecutive trips to the state tournament under their belts, the Norse boys had a full season schedule that included a tough HOIAC lineup, as well as non-conference matchups that were no easy tasks. The result was a record-breaking season, with the Norsemen racking up 29 victories against only 11 losses; a new school record for victories in a season.

Even though the lineup was being fine tuned in the early going, the Norsemen jumped out of the gate, winning six of their first eight contests and 10 of their first 12. They managed to keep it going through the middle part of the season as well, and found themselves sitting at 18-4 half through the campaign. By the time the home stretch was in sight, the Norse were ranked in the top 10 in Class 2A with an impressive 23-5 mark. Their only losses coming at the hands of eventual Heart of Iowa Conference champion Saydel twice (14-2 and 7-6), a ranked South Central Calhoun squad (13-3) and to rivals Nevada (7-5) and Gilbert (6-1). Through that entire stretch the Norse never had a losing streak of more than one game!

The R-S boys came back to earth a bit the last week and a half of the season, stumbling at East Marshalll (4-2) and against West Marshall (5-4), and also sufferng a doubleheader loss to North Polk (1-0 and 7-2). But they righted the ship and won four of their last five before heading into district play.

After an opening district win over PCM (7-2) the Norsemen ran into the hottest pitcher in the state against CMB in the district final. A hard fought, nine-inning 3-0 loss to the Raiders ended the Norsemen’s season short of their quest for a fourth consecutive trip the state tournament. Any other bracket, any other team, and the Norse almost assuredly would be playing this week at Principal Park.

Knowing that the Norsemen had competed strong against all of their opponents this season, Coach Hill was fortunate to see that proven time and time again, even in the last game against CMB.

“This team proved that point accurately (all season) and by competing very well with one of the most dominant pitchers I have seen in my 12 years of coaching 2A baseball,” he said.

Stats/Standings

The Norse finished fourth in the competitive HOIAC with a 10-6 record, trailing only Saydel (14-0), Gilbert (12-4) and North Polk (10-6). Their 29 victories, however, were the most of any team in the conference.

Rounding out the conference were: CMB (7-8), PCM (7-9), Greene County (5-10), South Hamilton (3-12) and Nevada (2-14).

Zach Shadlow led the team in batting with a .387 average, piling up 41 hits and 36 RBIs. He also smashed four home runs. Tyler Hovick also batted over .300, posting a .321 average with 36 hits, 28 stolen bases and led the team in runs scored with 43.

Among the other regulars in the batting lineup, along with their averages, were: Colby Gray (.296), Jake Ford (.268), Landon Greiner (.261), Caleb Schlatter (.243), John Barclay (.240), Nathan Bell (.222) and Jakob Pitman (.208).

Hill utilized a five to six man pitching rotation throughout the season, as most weeks would include four to six contests in a five day period. The occasional doubleheader was thrown in as well.

The work horses for the Norse were Zach Shadlow, Tyler Hovick and Jake Ford, as they piled up 65, 58 and 57 innings pitched, respectively, and posting records of 5-2, 7-3 and 7-2. John Barclay went 4-2 through 33 2/3 innings, while Colby Gray was 3-0 in 30 2/3 innings and Jakob Pitman was 2-1 in 22 innings of work.

Hovick had an impressive .84 ERA through 10 starts and one relief appearance. Shadlow had an ERA of 2.05 in nine starts and five relief appearances. Ford was at 2.58 in nine starts and two relief stints. Barclay had an ERA of 2.70 in seven starts and one relief appearnace. Gray, used mostly in relief, with 12 appearances and one start, posted an ERA of 2.05. And Pitman finished with a 3.50 ERA in four starts and two relief appearances.

Awards

The Norse had five players earn 2016 All-Conference honors in the Heart of Iowa Conference this season. Infielder Tyler Hovick and utility man Zach Shadlow were named to the first team. Utility player Jake Ford earned second team honors. And John Barclay and Colby Gray received honorable mention.

Hovick and Shadlow were also named first team All-District, while Ford was listed on the second team All-District.

At the recent banquet held to mark the end of the season the Norsemen Team Awards were handed out. Awards given included: Most Valuable Player - Tyler Hovick, Offensive Player of the Year - Zach Shadlow, Defensive Player of the Year - John Barclay, Pitcher of the Year - Jake Ford, Rookie of the Year - Colby Gray, Most Improved Player - Landon Greiner, Playmaker of the Year - Zach Shadlow, Norsemen Award - Josh Sevde.

Lettermen for the 2016 season included: Seniors - John Barclay, Tyler Hovick, Josh Sevde; Juniors - Jake Ford, Caleb Schlatter, Matthew Weaver; Sophomores - Landon Greiner, Will Larson, Zach Shadlow, Derek Staker, Zach Taylor; Freshmen - Nathan Bell, Colby Gray, Jakob Pitman, Nick Stole.

“There’s a lot to be proud of this year, and there is a lot to work on for next year,” concluded Coach Hill. “I would like to thank our three seniors that did so much for Roland-Story baseball. They were all a big part of our success and they will be missed next year. We will (also) bring back a lot of experienced players, and to that point, we will also have a lot of younger players that will have their sights set on being a varsity baseball player. This should all lead to a competitive off season for our program, and our coaching staff looks forward to the opportunity of working with these young men.”