Cub baseball team went through growing pains in 2014

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Brandon DeGroot will be one of several returning players with starting experience for Nevada next season.
Chris Dobernecker was one of the top hitters for Nevada this season after posting a .333 batting average with five doubles and one home run.

An untested Nevada baseball team took its lumps during the season, but several standout young players helped Cubs set the stage for a bright future.

With only three players returning with varsity experience from last year’s senior-dominated team that finished 21-13, Nevada was unable to reach a double-digit win total. The Cubs finished 7-21 overall and 5-13 in the Heart of Iowa Conference.

“I thought our biggest challenge would be putting such a young team out there that we might become discouraged early and have a hard time recovering from it,” Nevada head coach Doug Anderson said. “For the majority of the season we had two eighth-graders, two freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup. A lot of kids were thrown into the fire early. There were a lot of good pitchers in the conference this year, so it would be easy to get discouraged and not be able to find their confidence at that level.”

Nevada started the season winning two of its first three games. After an opening loss to Prairie City-Monroe, the Cubs whipped South Hamilton and Colfax-Mingo by 10-3 and 10-0 scores respectively.

Nevada then suffered losses to Collins-Maxwell-Baxter, North Polk and Saydel. The Cubs gave a North Polk team that went on to win the Class 2A state title a great fight before losing a 2-1 battle at Alleman on June 4.

The Cub losing skid ended with a 6-5 victory over Greene County on June 9. The Cubs followed win that with losses to Roland-Story and Gilbert before splitting games with Waterloo East and Waverly-Shell Rock at the Waverly-Shell Rock Invite on June 14.

PCM and Ballard handed Nevada back-to-back losses on June 16 and 17. The Cubs rebounded by completing sweeps over South Hamilton and Colfax-Mingo with respective 7-6 and 7-0 triumphs.

Then Nevada hit its most difficult stretch of the season. Starting with losses to Ballard and Gilbert at the Ballard Invitational on June 21, the Cubs dropped nine games in a row. Included in those losses was a 6-2 setback against North Polk and an 8-0 loss to a Roland-Story team that went on to reach the 2A state semifinals.

Nevada ended its slump with a 3-1 home victory over Colo-Nesco on senior night July 10.

The Cubs finished the regular season with losses to Bondurant-Farrar and Pella. Nevada gave Pella all it could handle before suffering a 4-1 defeat.

In 3A districts Nevada opened up with a top-10 power in Algona. The Cubs hung tough early, but eventually ended up on the short end of an 11-1 decision.

“We had three walk-off wins, wins that were all big - the first one over a 4A school at Waverly (Waterloo East),” Anderson said. “Beating Greene County in extra innings at home was also a huge win for us, and coming from behind to win on our last at-bat against South Hamilton resulted in another dog pile at home plate. It was really fun to watch the kids be so excited.”

“Overall I was pleased with the progress we made from the start of the season to the end,” Anderson added. “Although it might have been a little slower than we hoped, we did improve and I think that the guys felt themselves grow this year.”

As a team Nevada scored 83 runs hitting .243 with a .334 on-base average and .299 slugging average. The Cubs totaled 31 doubles and two home runs and finished with 20 steals in 24 attempts.

The Cub pitching staff allowed 220 runs with a staff earned-run average of 4.51. Nevada finished with 182 strikeouts against 119 walks and 19 hit batsmen and teams hit .245 against the Cubs in 173 ⅔ innings.

In the field Nevada posted a .908 fielding average with 466 putouts, 134 assists and 61 errors in 661 chances.

The top individual performers for Nevada on offense were Alex Good, Chris Dobernecker and Traye Pelzer. All three individuals hit over .300 during the season.

Good posted a .392 average with a .494 OBA and .514 slugging average. The veteran smacked six doubles and one home run, went 10 for 10 in steals, walked 12 times, was hit on three occasions and tallied team-high run and RBI totals of 19 and 16 respectively.

Good had a .952 fielding average at pitcher, second base and catcher. He threw out two runners from behind the plate and finished with 88 putouts and 30 assists.

Dobernecker hit .333 as a sophomore with a team-best .538 slugging average in his first varsity season. Dobernecker tallied five doubles and one home run and he also drove in seven runs.

In the field Dobernecker recorded a .932 average with 54 putouts and one assist, playing primarily at first base.

Pelzer was a tremendous spark at the top of the order for Nevada. He hit .313 with a .396 OBA, 15 runs, 11 walks and five steals.

In the field Pelzer made just three errors against 43 putouts and one assist as an outstanding center fielder.

Freshman Macade Matuska, eighth-grader Jack Higgins, juniors Jake Kapustka and Brandon DeGroot and sophomore Bennett Thompson all hit over .200 for Nevada during the season.

Matuska hit .274 with a .375 OBA, five doubles, eight runs and five RBI. He spent most of his time in the field behind the plate, going error-free and throwing out two runners.

Higgins posted a .273 average with six hits in 22 at-bats. He also made four putouts and two assists, putting in the most time at third base.

Kapustka hit .269 with seven doubles and 10 RBI. He made 79 putouts at first base.

DeGroot hit .239 with three doubles, nine runs and 13 RBI. Playing at second base and on the mound, he recorded a .917 fielding average with 42 putouts and 13 assists.

Thompson hit .238 with one double, nine runs and five RBI. He made 10 putouts on defense.

Patrick Stephenson - Nevada’s lone senior - hit .182 with a .259 OBA, two doubles, seven runs and four steals on the season. He made 57 assists and 18 putouts at shortstop.

Junior Colton Tibedeau also hit .182 with two hits in 11 at bats.

Nevada’s other regular hitters were eighth-grader Cam Shill and freshman Tyler Shafer.

Shill recorded a .147 OBA and Shafer reached base at a .259 rate.

Shafer, Good, DeGroot, Tibedeau, Pelzer and Shill handled most of the pitching for Nevada.

Shafer went 2-3 with a 2.48 ERA, 58 strikeouts and 35 walks in 48 innings. Good was 3-4 with a 3.97 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 20 walks in 37 innings and DeGroot finished 0-7 with a 4.97 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 27 walks in 38 innings.

Tibedeau ended up 0-3 with a 4.40 ERA in 20 ⅔ innings. Pelzer threw 15 ⅔ innings and went 0-1 with a 4.47 ERA and Shill was 2-3 in 13 ⅓ innings.

Next season Nevada will miss the leadership of Stephenson. But with every other key player back, the Cubs aim for noticeable improvement in 2015.

“With a year of experience, expectations will be high next year,” Anderson said. “We will have a nucleus of upper classmen to lead the way. Alex and Traye were right there helping Patrick lead the team this year; next year it will be theirs. All of our pitchers return and our bats and defense will be a year older. We have some of our players playing fall league down at Grand View College, getting more reps before winter gets here, and then we’ll take a couple months to work some more things out. Hopefully turnout is good. Offseason workouts will count heavily on who will be playing and who wants it the most next year.”

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