Crestwood baseball team strives for continued success


CRESCO - After posting its most successful season in over a decade last year, the Crestwood baseball team is hoping to match or surpass that success when it hits the field in 2017.
In 2016, the Cadets posted a solid 18-12 overall mark (10-7 Northeast Iowa Conference) before losing to Decorah in the first round of the district tournament. Crestwood’s 18 wins last year was the most the team had recorded in a season since winning 20 games in 2002.
Cadet Head Coach Gary Steffen, who is entering his seventh year guiding the team, said it won’t be easy replacing the six seniors who graduated from the 2016 team. Those graduated seniors from last year include: Chase Lienhard, second base; Austin McConnell, pitcher; Jordan Voves, catcher;  Quincey Andera, pitcher; Reece Zubrod, utility; and Garrett Steffen, outfield.
During the 2016 season, Voves threw out 20 baserunners from behind the plate, and he posted a .295 batting average with 28 hits and 14 run batted in. McConnell led the Cadets on the mound with a 7-2 record, had 31 strikeouts and a 2.05 earned run average. Andera had 15 RBI, 13 hits and 12 runs scored last season.
While replacing these six seniors from last year won’t be easy, Coach Steffen is excited to have 22 players on the varsity team this season, including 12 returning letterwinners. The returning letterwinners include: Shane Vokaty, sophomore, second base; Kristian Szajna, junior, outfield and pitcher; Trae Pecinovsky, senior, shortstop and pitcher; Colten Wiley, senior, outfield and pitcher; Dakota Casper, senior, outfield; Ethan Hoppe, senior, third base and pitcher; Jon Henry, sophomore, catcher and pitcher; Clayton Ollendieck, junior, third base and pitcher; Zackary Lane, sophomore, first base, outfield and pitcher; Austin McAllister, senior, outfield and pitcher; Spencer Cuvelier, senior, first base, catcher and pitcher; and Frank Hrdlicka, sophomore, utility.
Cuvelier led the Cadets with a .375 batting average in 2016, had 29 runs, 30 hits and 26 RBI. McAllister posted a .316 batting average, had 36 runs and led the team with 32 stolen bases. Szajna had a .321 batting average last season.
Other players on the roster include: Matthew Slifka, freshman, second base and pitcher; Bryer Thompson, freshman, utility; Colter Bye, sophomore, outfield; Stone Peckham, sophomore, catcher; Sawyer Peckham, junior, first base and pitcher; Garret Ollendieck, freshman, shortstop and pitcher; Reece Meinecke, junior, utility; Cade Wenthold, sophomore; Isaac Ellis, sophomore; and Bryden Juelsgaard, freshman.
“We lost a lot of great players from last year,” Coach Gary Steffen said. “We’ll have some holes to fill (in the lineup), but we have some kids this year who can do that. We might be a work in progress at some positions, such as catcher. Jon Henry and Stone Peckham might end up sharing time as the catcher. We also have Spencer Cuvelier, who could fill in as our catcher. That’s a key position, but we’ll get it squared away.
“On the mound, we have some returning pitchers who threw well last year, including Clayton Ollendieck. Spencer Cuvelier and Ethan Hoppe also pitched well last year. We will also have some young pitchers we are hoping will shore up our pitching rotation,” Steffen said.
Pitch count rule
The coach noted there is a new Iowa High School Athletic Association rule regarding the pitch count in 2017.
For sophomore, junior and senior pitchers, if a student pitches up to 25 pitches in a game, no rest is required. If he throws 26 to 40 pitches, one day of rest is required. For 41 to 65 pitches, two days of rest is needed. For 66 to 90 pitches, it requires three days of rest. For 91-110 pitches, four days of rest is required.
“The pitch count rule will play a factor in games because with the rule, the number of pitches will be more important than the number of innings someone pitches. This rule might come into play with some teams who don’t have a lot of pitching depth,” Steffen said.
On the plus side, the coach said that Crestwood’s pitching may be a team strength this season.
“I think we have the capability of having a very good pitching staff,” Steffen said. “We’ll have a few defensive positions to fill, such as second base. Shane Vokaty is one player who might fill in at second base.
“Offensively, we are a work in progress. Spring practices are a hit-and-miss scenario because it’s an adventure trying to get everyone on the same page and get everyone some cuts at the plate. However, every school is going through the same thing with distractions (such as graduation and the spring sports) at this time of the year,” Steffen said.
While pre-season practices don’t always work out the kinks before the season starts, the coach is optimistic going into the 2017 season.
“Our guys have a lot of potential,” Steffen noted. “I see a lot of good things on our team. We definitely want to take last year’s success, capitalize on that and take it another step further. 
“One of our team goals will be to finish near the top of the conference and battle for first place, just like we did last year. We also want to play well and win the district tournament. I want our guys to have the mentality that districts is not the end of the season, but it’s the beginning of a new season. We need to look at districts as a very important time of the season.
“Last year, we fell flat in districts (during a loss to Decorah). We don’t always play our best in districts because we seem to take a step backwards. I’ve been preaching to the kids that we need to win three in a row in July (when the playoffs start). If we win three in a row in the playoffs, we’ll be at State,” Steffen said.
The coach is optimistic the success from the 2016 season will give the 2017 team more confidence when they take the field.
“We are hoping that confidence-wise, the team knows they can do it, and they approach games with the attitude, ‘we can win,’ instead of just going out and playing hard," Steffen said.

Cresco Times

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