Crestwood baseball team gives strong effort in 2017


CRESCO - At first glance, the final record for the 2017 Crestwood varsity baseball team (11-19 overall, 6-12 NEIC) might not garner much attention outside of Northeast Iowa. However, if you dig deeper, you’ll see the Cadets’ record does not do justice to how competitive the team was and how hard they worked this summer.
Team members included: Shane Vokaty, sophomore; Matthew Slifka, freshman; Kristian Szajna, junior; Trae Pecinovsky, senior; Colten Wiley, senior; Carter Henry, eighth grade; Bryer Thompson, freshman; Colter Bye, sophomore; Ethan Hoppe, senior; Stone Peckham, sophomore; Gabe Grabau, eighth grade; Sawyer Peckham, junior; Jon Henry, sophomore; Garret Ollendieck, freshman; Clayton Ollendieck, junior; Zack Lane, sophomore; Austin McAllister, senior; Reece Meinecke, junior; Spencer Cuvelier, senior; Frank Hrdlicka, sophomore; Kade Munkel, eighth grade; Mason Peter, eighth grade; and Reid Wiley, eighth grade. Coaches included: Head Coach Gary Steffen, Assistant Justin Denner and Assistant Kolby LeFebvre.
In addition to competing against schools in the tough Northeast Iowa Conference, the Cadets battled hard against several strong non-conference schools this year, including Saint Ansgar, South Winn, Lansing Kee, Mason City Newman and Waterloo West.
Unfortunately for Crestwood, the close games didn’t often go in its favor. During 15 games in which the final score was decided by three runs or less, the Cadets had a record of four wins and 11 losses. Among these close losses, six were one-run losses.
Even though the Cadets finished with a losing record, Head Coach Gary Steffen said there were several positives to take from the season.
“One of the biggest positive aspects of the season was our team batting average of .284,” Steffen said. “This was one of the best batting averages we’ve had as a team since I’ve been here. Offensively, we really hit the ball well, which included seven home runs. There were times we were up-and-down on offense, but overall I was very pleased with our offense.
“Austin McAllister had a great season on offense and defense. He had 25 stolen bases, a .382 batting average, and a .467 on-base percentage, which means he was on base almost half the time (he came up to bat). He is the kind of player that if he gets on base, good things will happen. 
“We also had some bright spots with our pitching. Clayton Ollendieck was our most consistent pitcher, and he had a good year on the mound. Clayton also had a great year at the plate, and he had a lot of big hits for us. It will be nice to have Clayton back next year. During the off-season, he will compete on the Cedar Valley Crush, which is a traveling team that plays weekend games in the fall.
“Frank Hrdlicka also had a good year on the mound with a 3-1 record. Kristian Szajna had some good moments on the mound, including a win over Waterloo West. Trae Pecinovsky had a nice season on offense with a .340 average in NEIC games,” Steffen said.
The coach noted one pleasant surprise this season was sophomore catcher Jon Henry.
“Jon had a very good season,” Steffen said. “We lost three-year starter Jordan Voves to graduation, but Jon came in and learned the position (catcher) quickly. He’s easily coachable. By the end of the year, he was doing a great job behind the plate. I’m happy we’ll have him for two more years. Offensively, he hit .340 in conference games, which tied Trae for the lead.
“Matthew Slifka, who played well at second base, also had a good year as a freshman. He fielded his position well, and we look forward to his future,” Steffen said.
Defensively, the coach noted the Cadets played solid overall with the exception of a couple games. As a team, Crestwood finished with a .943 fielding percentage.
Although the team will lose five seniors next season, Steffen is excited to have many younger players coming back.
“We’ve got a talented group of young players (returning next year),” Steffen said. “They have played a lot of baseball before entering high school. They know the game, and they’re excited about it. Some of those younger players may play big roles for us next year.”
The coach also gave credit to the five graduated seniors including: Austin McAllister, Trae Pecinovsky, Colten Wiley, Spencer Cuvelier and Ethan Hoppe.
“I greatly respect these seniors,” Steffen said. “They made a commitment to playing in the summer. They put in four good years to the program. All these guys were a part of the 2016 team, which had a winning year. On and off the field, they’ve done a lot to help the program. I wish all of them the best of luck in their future.
“I also want to thank my assistant coaches, Kolby LeFebvre and Justin Denner. Kolby coached the freshmen and assisted the varsity squad, and Justin assisted the varsity. Both guys did a great job this year,” Steffen said.
Areas to improve
While Steffen said the Cadets had some good games on the mound in 2017, he is hopeful the team can improve even more next year.
“Pitching is one area where I’d like to see us improve in 2018,” Steffen said. “We need to get our ERA down (from 4.24 this year), and another big area is the bases on balls. We gave up 165 walks in 2017, which was about 30 more walks than we gave up last year. We need to be more consistent with throwing strikes.
“With our pitching, it’s a combination of the mental and mechanical aspects. There are some things we can work on in the spring with pitching. Spring throwing is critical. We really want more guys to come in to throw during the spring to build up their arm strength. 
“I really encourage our guys to come start throwing in March. We had good participation (from our pitchers) during this past spring, but I’d still like to see more guys throwing early next year. If kids wait until the first week of practice to throw, then it takes them a while to catch up to the other pitchers,” Steffen said.
The coach added he is optimistic the Cadets can improve on some fundamentals of the game, such as baserunning and bunting.
“The little things with baserunning, such as what the guys are supposed to do during certain situations, is important,” Steffen said. “We need to get some of the younger players more experience and get them ready to go. Some of the mental aspects need to improve. Maybe taking a better approach in practice will help.
“With our bunting, we need to become better bunters mechanically. Bunting is an art, and we need to work on the proper mechanics of it. That is something the guys can work on during the off-season,” Steffen said. 
Cadet statistics
As a team, the Cadets posted a .284 batting average, tallied 171 runs, had 230 hits, including 34 doubles, two triples and seven home runs, had 121 runs batted in, posted 77 stolen bases, drew 114 walks and struck out 165 times.
On the mound, Crestwood’s pitchers had an earned run average of 4.24, allowed 195 hits, 182 runs (122 earned runs), walked 165 batters, struck out 141 batters and held opponents to a batting average of .249.
At the plate, Austin McAllister led the team with a .382 batting average, was first with a .467 on-base percentage, led the team with 34 runs scored, had 34 hits, five runs batted in and paced the team with 25 stolen bases in 28 attempts.
Clayton Ollendieck posted a .337 batting average, had 14 runs, 32 hits, including 10 doubles, and led the team with 19 RBI. Trae Pecinovsky had a .326 batting average, scored 23 runs, had 30 hits, including eight doubles and two home runs, and tallied 15 RBI.
Jon Henry had a .316 batting average, scored four runs, had 24 hits and nine RBI. Colten Wiley posted a .253 batting average, scored 14 runs, tallied 22 hits and 11 RBI. Kristian Szajna had a .276 batting average, tallied 15 runs, had 21 hits, including four doubles, and had nine RBI.
Shane Vokaty recorded a .225 batting average, posted 17 runs, 20 hits, 14 RBI and 15 stolen bases. Spencer Cuvelier had a .228 batting average, scored 26 runs, had 18 hits, including four doubles and five home runs, posted 12 RBI, drew 25 walks and was hit by a pitch eight times.
Ethan Hoppe had a .229 batting average, tallied 11 hits, scored four runs and had nine RBI. Colter Bye had a .240 batting average, had six hits, four runs and five RBI.
On the mound, Ollendieck had a 3-4 record, tossed 47.1 innings, allowed 32 hits, 30 runs (24 earned), had a 3.55 ERA, walked 35 and struck out 52. Frank Hrdlicka posted a 3-1 record, pitched 25 innings, allowed 22 hits, 14 earned runs, had a 3.92 ERA, walked 15 and struck out 21. Kristian Szajna had a 2-4 record, allowed 28 hits, 12 earned runs, had a 2.31 ERA, struck out 16 and walked 18. 

Cresco Times

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