Gael baseball preview
St. Edmond head baseball coach Joe Shanks has experienced plenty of highs and lows while directing the program.
Last year, Shanks had one of his all-time lows, as the Gaels suffered nine consecutive losses early in the season. However, with a young squad, he knew there would be lumps.
Now, a season of experience has cast a bright light on the outlook for this summer.
St. Edmond finished the 2013 season 17-14, but won seven of its last nine. They were bounced from the postseason in a district final loss to Roland-Story, 3-2.
A total of 10 returning letterwinners are back, led by seniors Hank Crimmins and Cal Coleman. Crimmins, an outfielder and pitcher, was an all-state selection as a junior.
“We were young and hadn’t filled out yet a season ago,” said Shanks, who won a state title and is closing in on 500 career wins. “The kids have a year under their belt and are a lot better in terms of baseball action. They are doing the fundamental things better and we are seeing a lot of improvement.
“It’s still early, and we still have young kids, but I like what we are seeing. This team has a lot of potential.”
The Gaels must replace regulars Aaron Chalstrom, David Flattery and Tommy Setterdahl. Along with Crimmins and Coleman, Ryan Szalat, Matthew Bocken, Landon Hughett, Colin Flattery, Jason Setterdahl, Robert Flattery, Michael Sharkey and Logan Fear all lettered.
“We’ve got kids ready to step in and play on a regular basis,” Shanks said. “They just need to earn there spot and keep it.”
St. Edmond opens its season Monday when they play West Marshall at Patterson Field. First-pitch is set for noon, after Garner-Hayfield and Newell-Fonda meet in the first game at 10 a.m.
The winners will play at 4 p.m., with the losers meeting at 2 p.m.
Crimmins, Setterdahl and Robert Flattery return as the lead arms for the Gaels.
As a junior last year, Crimmins posted a 6-3 record in 62 innings, striking out 77 batters and walking just 34. He had a 2.48 earned run average.
Flattery went 5-3 in 58 innings with 44 strikeouts against only 15 walks and had a 1.45 ERA to lead the staff. Setterdahl was 2-5 in over 44 innings with 32 strikeouts and an ERA under three.
“Our top-three is pretty set and we are going to rely on those guys,” Shanks said. “Jason worked a lot in the offseason and has improved his velocity. He just has a real natural movement to his pitches.
“Hank is more of a power pitcher and a workhorse, while Robert is going to continue to see innings after a good year as a ninth-grader.”
Bocken, Colin Flattery and Szalat also saw action on the mound last year. Bocken pitched 12 innings and recorded 14 strikeouts.
“All three of those guys can come out and throw strikes,” Shanks said. “We don’t have that ‘flame-thrower,’ but we have the kind of infield that can make outs and work well behind our staff.”
Shanks has two “quarterbacks” as he referred to both catchers Bocken and Szalat as. The duo will split time behind the plate and will also see action at several infield spots.
“They are both smart and fundamentally sound,” Shanks said. “Catcher is one of the most important positions on the field and I have a lot of trust and faith in both of them.”
Bocken and Szalat combined for 37 hits and nine RBI last season, scoring 32 runs.
Setterdahl will replace his brother at first base, while Sharkey holds down the other corner infield position and can also see time at first when Setterdahl pitches.
Setterdahl collected 17 hits in limited action, while Sharkey had two in just nine at-bats.
“Michael is coming off a knee surgery but has looked really good at the plate so far in the preseason,” Shanks said. “And Jason is improving all the time with the bat.”
At second base will be Fear when Szalat catches, while Colin and Robert Flattery handle shortstop duties. Robert Flattery had 22 hits and nine runs scored, driving in 13.
“Colin played junior varsity last year and we are going to need him to step up and contribute and be sound with his glove,” Shanks said. “And Robert, once he and Cal are finished with golf, he’ll be an important part to what we do.”
Perry, Johnson and freshmen Patrick Bocken and Matt Bennett will all see action around the infield.
When he isn’t on the mound, Crimmins will occupy center, moving over from left this season. He batted .390 with 29 RBI, 14 doubles and eight steals a season ago, and will attend Iowa Central in the fall and play baseball.
“Hank is just the kind of kid you want around your program,” Shanks said. “He enjoys baseball and everybody sees that. He came up through the ranks and learned how to approach the game from some of the great players we’ve had over the years, and now he’s showing the younger kids that same way.
“I’ve really enjoyed having Hank.”
Coleman and Hughett will hold down the corner outfield positions. Coleman had 12 RBI and four steals last season, while Hughett saw action in 15 games as a sophomore.
“Landon is a big, strong kid that has worked extremely hard over the offseason to get better,” Shanks said. “And Cal, like Hank, is a dedicated kid who has made tremendous strides over his career.”
Clear Lake ran away with the league crown a season ago, going 17-1. Humboldt was second, followed by Bishop Garrigan, Iowa Falls-Alden and the Gaels.
“Last year, Clear Lake really distanced themselves from the rest of the pack,” Shanks said. “I think you will see a few more teams battling for the top spot.”
The Lions lost seniors Gavin Sheakley and Jerry Kockler, who went a combined 27-1 on the hill and recorded over 200 strikeouts.
The Wildcats return Brenden Schnell, who went 8-1 on the mount, along with Connor Vitzthum. They must replace ace Ben Jacobson, but also have junior Austin Zylstra and sophomore Chris Witzke back.
For the Golden Bears, Zac Kibby and Reece Wadle will anchor the way. Algona has a new head coach, as Mike Elsbecker – the brother of Fort Dodge athletic director Matt Elsbecker – takes over.
“Humboldt has a couple nice arms, as does Bishop Garrigan,” Shanks said. “And I’m interested in seeing how Algona does with a new coaching staff.”