72
      Thursday
      93 / 70
      Friday
      92 / 70
      Saturday
      92 / 71

      2014 KHQA Diamond Do or Die Team

      Greetings everybody and welcome to our 2014 Internet Diamond Wrap Up. Obviously, this isn't the most ideal manner to bestow baseball and softball awards, here in the dog days of Summer, but with all the differently timed seasons in different states, and my annual July vacation, this is the best fit solution we have. So I hope you enjoy them in the spirt of entertainment and delivered to you on an unfortunately short clock. As always, my annual DO or DIE TEAM Disclaimer....

      The awards you see below are nothing but our highly subjective, completely opinionated take on what was an incredibly fun winter's worth of baseball and softballl. We are not experts in any sense of the word. I assure you: our picks here have no impact on recruiting, college scholarships, or future success. This column is provided for nothing more than entertainment purposes and should be enjoyed in that spirit. If you want to have a healthy, constructive, positive debate with us over any pick or omission, I am happy to do so with you as you can contact me at cduerr@khqa.com and we can better illustrate our points and why we made them and I am certainly willing to hear you out. But again in the end, what we do here is merely a reflection of our opinion, nothing more. No more meaningful or valid than the diamond opinions of anyone else. And I hope no one takes too much offense or gets to overheated about what transpires here.

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      2014 KHQA BASEBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

      TYLER NIEMANN, Canton

      RATIONALE: Lots of viable arguments to made here but from an Offense/Defense standpoint, no one impacted the game more than Canton's three time All State Catcher and your already reigning KHQA Basketball Player of the Year; so we wisely double up here on Tyler Niemann in the awards department. Even with opponents determined to pitch away from him, Niemann still used that lethal lefty swing to hit .500 on the season. And considering how little he saw in the way of hittable baseballs, that is a most impressive showing. As are his six home runs and 27 RBI on the year. It was Niemann, in fact, who homered off Scotland County ace Austin Thrasher in the District Title game to tag that young man with his first surrendered earned run of the season. Kid is possessed of an absolutely textbook swing; one of the many selling points in earning him a Division One Baseball opportunity at Morehead State going forward. And while his catching days are likely behind him moving past high school, Niemann set a tremendously high standard behind the plate managing pitchers, mowing down would-be base runners, and smothering errantly thrown pitches. The more salient argument here for Niemann's greatness is just how much the program elevated in his watch; a tenure that included a pair of Elite Eight appearances and one Final Four. And like Shelby Koehler, this is a kid who got it done in three sports and maintained a sky high GPA along the way.

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      2014 KHQA BASEBALL COACH OF THE YEAR

      MARK CHEATUM, Griggsville-Perry

      RATIONALE: Much like Jim Scott, Mark Cheatum earns this award in creating a new benchmark for his program, leading the Tornadoes to their first ever Sectional Baseball Championship. The more amazing part of that equation, however, is that the G-P Skipper was able to do so in his first year in the dugout. Granted, Mark inherited a very talented roster and took over a program that had tangible momentum working. By the same token, he didn't miss a beat in coaxing his team to 25 wins and a Supersectional Appearance in Springfield. Got a number of chances to watch Cheatum in action this season and was very impressed by the progress his kids made from last year to this under his command. He's clearly a teaching oriented skipper and one who seemed to strike the right tone with kids between keeping everyone loose and running a tight ship with getting what he wanted on the field. Hard to remember a more impressive local coaching debut.

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      2014 ALL DO OR DIE BASEBALL TEAM

      PITCHING STAFF

      FIRST TEAM SELECTIONS

      RICK DOUR, Beardstown

      WHY HE'S HERE: Statistically speaking, who was better? The Tiger Sophomore went 7-1 on the bump for Robin Lewis and produced a microscopic 0.35 ERA along the way in route to unanimous All-Prairieland honors. Kid gave up just 29 hits in 52 innings worth of work. And he was no slouch at the plate with seven triples on the season and 26 RBI.

      AUSTIN THRASHER, Scotland County

      WHY HE'S HERE: You pitch the entire regular season without allowing an earned run, you get love here. Scotland County's ace of aces finished the year with a 9-1 record in leading the Tigers to a District Championship Game appearance. A hiccup against Canton "inflated" his final ERA to .70 on the season with 103 strikeouts on the season.

      GRANT BLAND, West Prairie

      WHY HE'S HERE: Because clutch matters and Grant was the heart and soul of this spring's greatest feel good story. Cyclone's power pitcher fashioned a 19 inning scoreless streak to help turn what was a "mediocre" regular season squad into a Sectional Finalist, grabbing three wins and a save along the way. Carl Sandburg signee proved quite the force at the plate and in the field as well.

      MITCHEL MAIN, Griggsville Perry

      WHY HE'S HERE: The de facto rainmaker on the Tri State's most successful team put together a masterful resume, going 9-0 on the season with a pair of saves to go along with a miniscule 1.04 ERA. Tremendous mix of control and intelligence made the gritty Tornado Senior Western Illinois most improved player at any position.

      ANDREW EILERS, Quincy High

      WHY HE'S HERE: Unflinching success against the region's toughest slate of opponents. A First Team All Western Big Six selection, Eilers weathered a gauntlet of loaded offenses and came out clean on the other side with a tidy 2.19 ERA. Signed to Lindenwood University

      JUSTIN TALLMAN, QND

      WHY HE'S HERE: To my mind, the most consistently impressive pitcher I saw this season. He's imposing on the hill, works the plate fearlessly, and I did not see anyone hit him hard the entire Spring. To my mind, one of the most promising kids in the Class of 2015.

      TREVOR KNIPE, West Hancock

      WHY HE'S HERE: Ultimate plug and play workhorse. Five of his nine starters were complete game efforts. Posted a 1.95 ERA for a Titan team that had its share of offensive peaks and valleys. Stabilizing force on a young team who brought tremendous intangibles and leadership to a team much in need.

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      SECOND TEAM PICKS

      DYLAN JONES, Routt

      AARON DEROUSSE, Central

      JUSTIN FELLINGER, Canton

      COLTON MELLINGER, Illini West

      DAKOTA SHAW, Keokuk

      ERIC HUGENBERG, Hannibal

      AARON STONE, Palmyra

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      CATCHER

      CALEB KIZER, PALMYRA

      WHY HE'S HERE: Who doesn't love a catcher who hits lead off effectively? Palmyra First Team All State selection was the perfect mix of speed, outlier defense, and power. Tremendous competitor at the plate and a young man who ate up mistake pitches like nobody's business behind the plate.

      REED SPRINKLE

      WHY HE'S HERE: The Two time All West Central Conference First Team selection maximized his diamond gifts as a Senior and showed improved plate discipline without sacrifice his natural power. Clarke University pledge is throwback behind the plate, save for his better than you realize speed.

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      SECOND TEAM PICKS

      LUKE STRATTON, Marion County

      KYLE KUHN, Unity

      ZACH FOOTE, Central

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      INFIELD

      FIRST TEAM PICKS

      SETH BROWN, Palmyra

      WHY HE'S HERE: The Tri-State's best pure contact hitter. The future HLGU Trojan used that finely tuned southpaw swing to craft an area leading .571 batting average and struck out but once the entire season. Brown ended up with four home runs and 36 RBI, All State accord, and was honored as the Quincy Herald Whig's Player of the Year for his hitting prowess.

      KALEB BRADSHAW, Griggsville-Perry

      WHY HE'S HERE: Pure power. While he's a kid who undoubtedly brings a lot to the table, including formidable defensive reflexes on the corner and high end pitching chops, we prize Kaleb here for his ability to invigorate the middle of a lineup. The Tornado star had nine home runs this season and 36 RBI, all while hitting 33 RBI and scoring 36 runs.

      JOEY POLAK, QND

      WHY HE'S HERE: He's a baseball freak of nature. And I am not sure he's even scratched the surface yet. Still, what a terrific Sophomore Season for the future South Carolina Gamecock, who hit a team high .533 in the heart of the Raiders loaded lineup while driving in 49 runs.

      BROCK BUTLER, Palmyra

      WHY HE'S HERE: Is there any sport this kid isn't good at? As best anyone can tell, the Palmyra Shortstop may well be the first kid in school history to earn all state plaudits in three different sports. His baseball numbers included a .440 batting average, 28 RBI, and 34 runs scored as Senior.

      NOLAN ARD, Illini West

      WHY HE'S HERE: Clutch hitting and terrific bat speed. Charger Junior batted a tidy .425 with three round trippers. A do it all talent with defensive utility at shortstop. Was reminded watching him this summer just what a high ceiling Nolan has going forward to produce his own Brock Butler type season in Western Illinois in multiple sports.

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      SECOND TEAM

      ALEX MILLION, Quincy High

      CORDIE KIGAR, Scotland County

      ZACH VAHLE, QND

      BRADY ROBINSON, Brown County

      KYLE HANNANT, Griggsville-Perry

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      OUTFIELD

      FIRST TEAM

      JON KRAMER, Beardstown

      WHY HE'S HERE: Across the board excellence. Lefty superstar returns to our honors squad after earning First Team All State honors in Class 2A from the IHBCA by hitting hit .437 on the season with a team leading 43 RBI and 46 runs scored. The ICC pledge also posted a 1.76 ERA in route to seven wins this season and 90 K on the year.

      RICK GALLE, Central Lee

      WHY HE'S HERE: Futures pick. Fab Freshman debuted in Donnellson by starting 25 of 27 games and hitting a team best .437 at the plate. He also showed remarkable poise on the mound, winning three games, and holding varsity hitters to a .217 batting average on the year.

      DYLAN SHAFFER, Unity

      WHY HE'S HERE: Arguably Western Illinois best top of the line up hitter. Shaffer was a little under radar on a Mustang team that had its share of struggles, but you can't argue with a .474 batting average. The rangy senior also stole 11 bases, scored 25 runs, and infused

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      SECOND TEAM

      RYAN BICKHAUS, Routt

      BRANDON BERHORST, Canton

      AUSTIN ALLEN, Pittsfield

      AUSTIN JONES, Rushville-Industry

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      DESIGNATED HITTER

      BRANDT AMES, Keokuk

      WHY HE'S HERE: 46 RBI in 40 games tells you all you need to know about this kid's ability to hit with runners in scoring position. The Coe College pledge hit five home runs this Summer and put together a .368 batting average along the way.

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      2014 KHQA SOFTBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

      SHELBY KOEHLER, West Hancock

      RATIONALE: Not since Erica Martinez was rewriting the Iowa State Softball record books in the late 1990's has Tri State Softball produced such a potent offensive force at the plate. With a naturally compact yet ferocious swing, Miss Koehler launched an area best 12 home runs this season; many of them absolute rocket shots. This was a kid who very rarely got cheated a swing as evidenced by her region leading 56 RBI. Yet for all of slugging prowess, it was Koehler's bat speed and ability to make contact that made her the ultimate Tri State plate weapon. The All Stater finished the year with a .500 batting average and was nearly impossible to strike out over the course of the last two years. And while you could make the POY Case here for Shelby based on Offensive numbers alone, you'd be hard pressed to find a better defensive catcher in the region given her athleticism and strong arm. There is also the matter of what Shelby was able to do on the mound, splitting pitching duties with Ali DeWald to help give the Regional Championship winning Lady Titans one of the most effective 1-2 punches around. Koehler's contribution to that mix was 14 victories, a dazzling 1.87 ERA, and 132 total strikeouts. This was one intense, driven to succede young women who also posted a near flawless GPA to go along with her three sport star turn. But clearly it was softball that was Shelby Koehler's true calling card and she's set a tremendously high standard for those who follow.

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      2014 KHQA SOFTBALL COACH OF THE YEAR

      JIM SCOTT, West Prairie

      RATIONALE: What a turnaround Jim Scott has engineered in his seven seasons leading Cyclone Softball, taking what had been a perennial also-ran program and leading it to 27 wins and a state third place trophy this Spring. But for those of us who have gotten a chance to know Jim and his quality staff (Max Kreps and Laura Mason) over the years, it's not a surprise this program's first ever State Final Four Appearance in Softball came on this watch. The Cyclone skipper found a touchstone of success with a core nucleus of players with a winning athletic background (see also West Prairie Volleyball) and tapped smartly into their strengths to create a squad that did all the little things right. West Prairie's hallmark this season was smart pitching coupled with near flawless defense across the board. And Offensively, the Cyclones found ways to manufacture runs. It might not have been the sexiest style of softball in our area; but the results speak for themselves. And in the middle of it all was Jim Scott, a "baseball guy" with a unique talent for motivating and keeping it fun for his girls. This award couldn't happen to a nicer, more deserving, and dare I say quirkier guy.

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