Tritons get back to work

Messenger file photo Rodny Rodriguez gets a hit for Iowa Central last season at Ed Barbour Field. Rodriguez is a one of four regular position players returning.

Justin Meyer knew there would be some early-season growing pains for the Iowa Central baseball team.

Now, the second-year head coach is hoping that a return to Iowa brings with it more consistency both at the plate and on the mound.

Meyer, a former standout for Iowa Central as a pitcher who spent 10 years as an assistant, is now working with a complete roster that he put together after taking over for Rick Pederson.

“The goal, as it is every season, is to be playing our best baseball in May,” Meyer said. “Right now, losing is a tough pill to swallow. We didn’t lose a game in the fall with our No. 1 lineup, so these guys aren’t used to what we are going through right now.

“But we are just going to keep pushing forward so at the end we are hitting our stride.”

Only a handful of players return from a 36-win team a year ago that won both the ICCAC regular season and Region XI Tournament crowns, The Tritons (6-9 overall) advanced to districts before bowing out with a loss to Southeast (Neb.), who they play on Saturday in Beatrice, Neb. at 5 p.m. against Southeast Community College. The twinbill was originally scheduled to take place at Ed Barbour Field.

Among those returning to the lineup are sophomores Dylan Gasner, Nolan Monthei, Rodny Rodriguez and Tim Neff. Max Steffens, Rafael Melo and Jacob Mohler are back on the mound, along with Foster Anshutz, who made nine starts in 2016 before an injury sidelined him last season.

“Being Year 2, it already has a different feel to it overall,” Meyer said. “The biggest thing with a new group of guys is figuring them out, what makes them tick.

“With all that success we had in the fall, it kind of feels like our world is crashing down now on us (recently), but we’ll learn from this by cleaning up the mistakes and becoming a complete team.”

Gasner is hitting .314 with 10 RBI through 15 games, with Monthei batting .237 with nine runs driven in. Rodriguez has six RBI and Neff has four.

“Coach Meyer preaches that it is important to compete in everything we do in our lives,” said Monthei, a standout at Johnston before joining Iowa Central. “I have always loved competing, but when I am competing with guys that I work with day in and day out to reach our goals, it makes it that much better to be representing Iowa Central.”

Newcomers to the lineup include Andres Ortiz, who is hitting a team-high .353 with eight steals, five doubles, three triples and 11 runs scored, and his brother, Alberto Ortiz, who is batting .326 with 12 RBI, four doubles and three steals.

Noah Grimes, Devin Porter, Brock Reller, Albert Mora and Lyle Fini have all been used in several games this year. Porter has 10 RBI, Mora has five steals and Reller six runs driven in.

“By not making the routine plays, we’ve struggled to compete,” Meyer said. “Once we get that settled, I think we’ll be able to move to the next level and the end result will take care of itself.”

Anshutz, who had a hip injury and subsequent surgery that forced him to miss all last season, is 2-1 with 22 strikeouts in just over 16 innings and two earned runs allowed. Two years ago, he was 2-3 with 48 strikeouts in 47 innings and a 4.21 earned run average.

Melo has picked up a pair of saves, striking out five batters in four innings. Steffens, who was 7-2 with 54 strikeouts last year, has 14 strikeouts on the season and Mohler is 2-1 with 15 strikeouts in just as many innings.

“There are a lot of unknowns for our pitching staff this year,” said Mohler, who is from Nebraska. “We don’t return a whole lot of innings, so I expect to be a guy that can throw a lot of innings and give our team a chance to win at the end of the day.”

Jacob Goraczkowski has made three starts like Anshutz, Mohler and Steffens, with a handful of others also getting in innings early on this year.

“We are going to lean on our ‘Big 3’ of Anshutz, Steffens and Mohler this year,” Meyer said. “Those guys can match up with anybody and give us a good chance to win. We just need to continue to get the rest of the crew experience.”

Along with sweeping the regular and postseason tournament titles, the Tritons went 14-4 at home last season.

Meyer is assisted by Eric Stein, Andrew Wells, Jake Astor and Connor McLeod. Like Meyer, Stein and McLeod are both former Triton players themselves.

Iowa Central begins conference play on March 24-25 with four games at Northeast Nebraska. The Region XI Tournament is scheduled to begin May 10 in Clinton.

2018 IOWA CENTRAL BASEBALL

Roster

Sophomores

Timothy Neff, Southeast Polk; Nolan Monthei, Johnston; Dylan Gasner, Minnesota; Alex Remy, Algona; Max Steffens, Central DeWitt; Foster Anshutz, DM Roosevelt; Josh Breitbarth, Hawaii; Rafael Melo, Dominican Republic; Tanner Clark, Central Dewitt; Cade Niblo, Van Meter; Keegan Perez, Urbandale; Jacob Mohler, Nebraska; Steven Skidmore, Cedar Falls; Mason Clasen, Waterloo Columbus; Chris Kropuenske, South Dakota.

Freshman

Cullen Weiss, Wisconsin; Reid Johnson, St. Edmond; Albert Mora, Venezuela; Houston Hawkins, Spirit Lake; Jared Thompson, Vinton-Shellsburg; Tyler Fietek, Minnesota; Lyle Fini, WDM Dowling; Ben Hummel, Jesup; Alberto Ortiz, Dominican Republic; Brock Reller, North Dakota; Jacob Goraczkowski, Minnesota; Andres Ortiz, Venezuela; Peyton Krugler, WDM Dowling; Noah Grimes, DM Roosevelt.

Devin Porter Saydel; Jason Ferreras, Dominican Republic; Chase Wheeldon, Southeast Polk; Zach Hendrickson, Mason City; Walter Long, Bondurant-Farrar; Jaret Stellmaker, Minnesota; Taylor Brayton, Wisconsin; David Bruinsma, Canada; Connor Stanton, Johnston; Harley Hudson, Davis County.

Schedule

March 17 — vs. Southeast in Beatrice, Neb.; 18 — Southeast; 21 — at Indian Hills; 24 — at Northeast Nebraska; 25 — at Northeast Nebraska; 27 — Southwestern; 30 — at Kirkwood; 31 — at Kirkwood.

April 3 — at Marshalltown; 7 — Southeastern; 8 — Southeastern; 10 — Southwestern; 11 — Rochester Tech; 14 — at Ellsworth; 15 — at Ellsworth; 17 — Marshalltown; 21 — NIACC; 22 — NIACC; 24 — Indian Hills; 28 — DMACC; 29 — DMACC.

May 4 — at Iowa Lakes; 5 — Iowa Lakes; 10 — Region XI Tournament in Clinton.

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