As summer vacation comes to an end and a new school year begins, I take one more look back at this year's little league season in order to remind our players, and share with others, how we had another great baseball season. We had fantastic weather this year, with only one town league night rained out, as well as one All-Stars traveling team game interrupted twice by quarter-sized hail before it was postponed. We were fortunate in that our final day of the season was the only day we had to play in any serious heat.
Numbers were down a little this year in town league, and I had to group the older two groups a little differently, but everything worked out pretty well, as we always had enough players to field complete teams. Once again, the 1st grade boys joined the 1st and 2nd grade girls in the Tee-ball group. Players worked on the fundamentals of throwing, catching, hitting, fielding grounders, catching fly-balls, and running the bases. This group also focused on how to work as a team and get outs on defense. While there were certainly more runs scored than outs made during the 6-game schedule, spectators at the games did get to see some innings where the defense made some good plays to hold the other team scoreless. Players ran the bases much smarter this year too, thanks in large part to the parent volunteer base coaches at the games. I had blast with this group this year, but I do have to apologize for some bad pitching at times. It didn't take long to see that beginning P90x during the season was a bad idea. It's a good thing that we use very soft balls for this group, because I think I beaned more batters in one game this year than I have in all the other years I've done little league combined. They all kept a smile on their face and dealt with it like champs. However, I did notice that the heckling from the crowd was stepped up a bit.
The Pee-wee division this year consisted of a mix of 2nd-4th grade boys. This group continued to work on the fundamentals, while learning a little more about defense, such as relay throws, covering different bases, and focusing on getting the lead runner out when possible. I saw improvement from game to game with this group, and they showed a lot of enthusiasm every game night. What is most important for them to work on as they look to next year is working as a team and using positive encouragement with teammates. These are the things that will make it easier for them all to improve as baseball players.
This year's Little League division games were basically scrimmages, because all the players in this group were on the All-Stars traveling team. The nice thing for the players is that they got to try out different positions during the games, and many players got to hone their pitching skills on these nights. This helps the players become more versatile, and the younger players gain experience which will benefit them next year.
The All-Stars traveling team had another good season, going undefeated in regular season games in Tri-County, and losing just five A-games all summer, while winning the other fourteen. Unfortunately, one of those losses came in the Tri-County Tournament championship game to North Tama, who had the toughest pitcher we faced all year. If not for a couple of costly errors, it would have been a 0-0 game going into our last at bat. Instead it ended up 0-3, Redhawks.
The A-team finished up its season at the Waverly Classic Tournament. The All-Stars went 4-1-1 in six games at this 18-team tournament, and finished in the top four, losing 4-6 in the semi-finals to a talented Fayette team. I was extremely proud of our defense at this end-of-season tournament, as we allowed the fewest runs just 11 in 6 games - of any team participating. If not for our one tie game, we would have been the number one overall seed in the championship round. Just like last year, we were playing our best baseball at the end of the season, which is always one of my goals for the team. GREAT JOB GUYS! You can be proud of your effort this season.
For the A-team this year, the pitching was handled mainly by Joe Smoldt and Matt Roeding, with Mason Skovgard and Caden Kickbush filling in when needed. Joe went 9-1, giving up just 11 earned runs, and striking out 74 batters in 37 innings. Matt went 4-3, suffering some very close losses, while striking out 49 in 31 innings. Matt shared the catching duties with Parker Bown, who also split time at 1B with Mason Skovgard. Mason also played well at 3B this season. Caden Kickbush stepped into the starting 2B base position this year and did a great job. Kyle Koppen played fantastic at 3B base this year, and also did a fine job filling in at SS when Joe was pitching. Jed Peterson did very well as a first time starter in LF. Walker Thede moved over to CF this season, and did a great job covering the territory and running down fly-balls. Another first time starter, Jacob Walters, played a solid RF. Bryce Schick also did well in the outfield for a few games when he was needed to fill in. This groups "team batting average" was .402, with Joe and Parker both hitting over .500, and Matt and Walker close behind at .491 and .472 respectively.
The All-Stars B-team did well also, finishing with more wins than losses. For those who don't know, this is a significant achievement, due to the fact that our B-team usually ends up playing games against other towns' A-teams, while facing their 2nd or 3rd string pitchers. I am very proud of them for that fact, and know that it is a big reason why we have continued success, because each new season we have players ready to take on starting roles on the A-team. GREAT JOB GUYS! Continue to work hard and improve, so we are ready for another successful season next year.
For the B-team, Josh Saak and Dayton Clark took care of most of the pitching. Jackson Kiburis played 1B and 3B. Josh Peterson and Tyson Creswell played 2B. Cael Wyatt played most of the innings at SS. Catching almost every game was Bronson Wrage. Joel Davis, Zack Davis, Bryce Schick, Will Blakeslee, Jordan Hall, and David Demoret all shared time as outfielders.
I greatly appreciate everyone who helped out in any way this year, at games or in practices. You know who you are. All the players showed good sportsmanship, and the parents, support. Brady Billerbeck did a great job as assistant coach. The Park Board gave me the chance to coach again this year. Dan and Shelli Smoldt for helped in organizing another successful Reinbeck Tournament this year. As always, I thank God most of all for providing the opportunity to work with such wonderful kids every year doing what I love to do. God bless!