Looking to continue their proud tradition, the Iowa Central baseball program has its sights set on another deep postseason run this spring.
After finishing 35-23 overall a year ago, the Tritons will lean on a group of 19 sophomores, including six returning starters, to provide valuable veteran leadership in their relentless pursuit of a 10th NJCAA Div. II World Series trip in school history.
"We'll be right in the thick of things to win the regional championship and get a World Series berth," said 10th-year ICCC head coach Rick Pederson, who owns a 385-182-1 career record at the helm. "It's pretty obvious that we have one thing on our mind when we recruit kids in, which is expecting to be in the World Series every year. We have a lot of guys that have been in state tournaments and state championships, and winning breeds winning. Our sophomores also know the disappointment of not winning (the Region XI title) last season. As a group, we're pretty darn focused on what we need to accomplish to get back to (Enid) Oklahoma (to the NJCAA Div. II World Series)."
So far in 2012, the Tritons have notched a 14-9 mark through 23 games. Iowa Central is currently ranked 17th in the latest NJCAA Div. II poll.
"We have a talented group of players, but it's just a matter of us clicking on all cylinders at the same time," Pederson said. "We've shown flashes of being good in every aspect, which has me real excited about our potential, and we've played a very competitive schedule. We just haven't been consistent enough yet and have taken some steps backwards in the process."
2012 IOWA CENTRAL BASEBALL
Sophomores - Cory Ferm, 3B/P, Adel; Scott Splett, OF, Apple Valley, MN; Jacob Threlkeld, OF, Burnsville, MN; Jeremy Lambert, 1B/OF, Alta; Taylor Petersen, C, Atlantic; Kyle Behnke, OF, Balltown; Winder Fuentes, 3B/SS, Caracas, VN; Nick Degen, 3B/OF, Eau Claire, WI; Deric Poldberg, C, Carter Lake; Tyler Kriegl, C, Brooklyn; Nick Burger, 1B/OF, Minnetonka, MN; Logan Willard, P, Eagle Grove; Dalton Cowen, P, Gillette, WY; Jordan Hohensee, P, Brooklyn; Ryan Reese, C/3B, Lino Lakes, MN; Brady Collison, P, Algona; Kole Klocko, P, Norwalk; Matt Krey, P, South St. Paul, MN; Andrew Redman, P, Dubuque.
Freshmen - Tyler Cooklin, P, Grand Junction; Spencer Mallonee, 2B/OF, Davenport; Zak Leighton, SS/2B, Omaha, NE; Justin Threlkeld, C/OF, Burnsville, MN; Brandon Shulista, P, Solon; Bryan Porting, INF, Olathe, KS; Dalton Parrott, OF, West Des Moines; Connor McLeod, SS/2B, Detroit Lakes, MN; Dan Potempa, C/1B/OF, Tinley Park, IL; AJ Moore, P, Lakeville, MN; Bryce Berg, C, Carroll; Matt Kass, P, Peosta; Anthony Flattery, 3B/OF, Fort Dodge; Nolan Webster, P, Council Bluffs; Alex Alstott, OF, Fort Dodge; Dawson Porter, 1B, Omaha, NE; Quinn Johnson, P, Burnsville, MN; Christian Weiland, P, Alta; Vinny Crivaro, P, West Des Moines; Jack Rowen, UTL; Eagle Grove; Juan Berger, P, Guatemala City, GU; Will Kenny, P, Fort Dodge; Shawn Olson, C, Solon; Jordan McGowan, SS/2B, Cottage Grove, MN; Lincoln Sibbitt, 2B/3B, Rinard; Joe Zahn, 2B/3B, Johnston; Alex Quinones, C, Waterloo; Tyler Dean, P, Spirit Lake; Cody Wilson, C, Waterloo; Gray Griffiths, INF, Vancouver, CA; Caleb Nelsen, P, Jefferson.
Remaining Triton Schedule
March 28 - Dakota County, 2 p.m.; 29 - at Indian Hills, 4 p.m.; 30 - Rochester, 1 p.m.; 31 - Southwestern, 1 p.m.
April 1 - at Southwestern, 1 p.m.; 3 - at Marshalltown, 3 p.m.; 6 - Southeastern, 1 p.m.; 7 - Southeastern, 1 p.m.; 11 - at Dakota County, 2 p.m.; 14 - at Kirkwood, 1 p.m.; 15 - at Kirkwood, noon; 19 - Indian Hills, 4 p.m.; 21 - DMACC, 1 p.m.; 22 - DMACC, 1 p.m.; 26 - Marshalltown, 3 p.m.; 28 - Iowa Lakes, 1 p.m.; 29 - Iowa Lakes, noon.
May 5 - at Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; 6 - at Ellsworth, 1 p.m.; 10-14 - at Region XI Tournament in Waterloo, TBA.
Comprising the front end of the steady Triton rotation is the sophomore duo of Andrew Redman and Logan Willard (Eagle Grove). As a rookie, Redman received honorable mention all-region honors after going 6-2 with a 2.05 earned run average and 56 strikeouts in 57 innings, spanning 10 outings. Willard, an Indiana State recruit, was 2-3 last season with one save in 11 appearances. Redman and Willard have combined for four victories and 43 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched this year.
"Depending on how things shake out, our pitching staff has the ability to go down as the best we've ever had," said Pederson. "Redman and Willard have both been throwing the ball excellent for us."
Will Kenny (Fort Dodge) and Brandon Shulista are each penciled in as starters as well. Kenny, a southpaw, is 1-0 in five games with 23 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings. Shulista, who recently suffered a broken bone in his hand and will be sidelined for three to four more weeks, has posted a 2-0 mark and a 2.84 ERA in 19 innings of work.
"Kenny is one of our top guys," Pederson said. "We have 100 percent confidence in his ability to do big things."
Bullpen arms expected to make a major impact are Quinn Johnson, Nolan Webster, Kole Klocko, Cory Ferm, Brady Collison (Algona), Vinny Crivaro and Dalton Cowen. Johnson has gone 1-0 with a miniscule 0.75 ERA over 12 innings, while Webster and Klocko have each delivered a pair of wins and have held opponents to a batting average under .235.
"We feel pretty good about our bullpen group," said Pederson. "Crivaro and Cowen will both see time in the closer's role. Collison is another guy that has taken big steps from his freshman to sophomore season."
Gone from 2011 are St. Edmond graduate Joey Flattery (Kansas State), Drew Ghelfi (Minnesota), Derek Hovick (North Dakota), Adam Funke (Northwest Missouri State), Allen Rimer (West Virginia State) and Andy Yetzer (Minnesota-Duluth), who combined for 19 of the 35 Triton wins last season.
Taylor Petersen is once again the primary option behind the dish after contributing 29 hits and 28 RBI last season. Petersen has clubbed a pair of early longballs. Serving as Petersen's backups are Bryce Berg and Deric Poldberg. Berg is batting well over .300 on the year.
Receiving the nod at first base is 6-foot-4 newcomer Dawson Porter, who has produced 19 hits in 59 at-bats, including five doubles.
"Porter is one of our big physical kids in the middle of our order," Pederson said. "We've recruited maybe a little different now because of the the rule change with the (BBCOR) bats, but I think we're more adapted to it and are a bigger more physical team than in the past. Last year, we didn't get the new bats in our hands until the first part of Feb. and struggled to score runs as a result. We played 58 ballgames and 28 of those were decided by just a run or two. Looking back and analyzing our season, it was so disappointing to see how close we were to having a really good year."
Handling duties up the middle is the double-play combination of second baseman Spencer Mallonee and shortstop Zak Leighton. Leighton has managed 13 hits and 12 runs through 16 games.
Occupying the hot corner is a platoon of Justin Threlkeld, North Dakota commit Ryan Reese, Winder Fuentes and Anthony Flattery (St. Edmond).
"We've had a little revolving door over at third," said Pederson. "We need to make the routine plays consistently and stay aggressive offensively."
South Dakota State signee Scott Splett, North Dakota recruit Jacob Threlkeld, Dan Potempa, Dalton Parrott and Alex Alstott (Fort Dodge) will cover the outfield positions.
Splett is batting .371 with 23 hits, 19 runs and 18 RBI. Threlkeld paces the team in batting average (.404), hits (24), RBI (22), stolen bases (7) and triples (3). Potempa is also hitting .319 with 10 runs knocked in.
"We're in good hands with all of those guys," Pederson said. "Threlkeld and Parrott are two of the best outfielders we've ever had as far as throwing and covering ground."
Like usual, Pederson envisions another rugged ICCAC race with defending Region XI champion Des Moines Area and Southeastern right near the top of the pack, along with the Tritons.
"Our conference will be pretty competitive from top to bottom," said Pederson. "We'll be tested each time out."
Iowa Central's home opener is set for Wednesday against Dakota County. The Region XI Tournament will take place May 10-14 in Waterloo.
Assisting Pederson are Lyle Stevens, Justin Meyer, Eric Stein and Sean O'Brien.
Contact Josh Meyer at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at email@example.com