Greetings everybody and welcome to the 2013 KHQA All Do or Die Baseball Wrap. This is simply our little way of celebrating all the achievements of the Spring/Summer Diamond season, which tends to sometimes get short shrift. Please understand that what you read below is meant for entertainment purposes only and is based on little more than the know-nothing opinions of the author. My only qualification to do this is watching a ton of baseball, which by no means makes me an expert. What your read below is simply my take and is offered as such. It won't win anyone any college scholarships or attention from Major League Baseball scouts. It's merely a fun exchange of ideas. I hope you will enjoy it in that spirit and not take any offense to the choices/omissions that may occur here. As always, I am happy to discuss my choices with anyone at email@example.com or by phone here at the station (217-222-6200) if you have any questions, comments, or just want to tell me how dumb I am.
2013 KHQA BASEBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
AUSTIN HARDY, P/SS, West Hancock
Rationale: Pretty tough call here between Hardy and the reigning KHQA 2012 POY in Routt's Nick Lonergan. The former had the better pitching numbers. The later had better offensive stats. Truth be told, both All State Selections were elite in all phases of the game, Defense included. And both young men are exceptional students and essentially the center of gravity on their respective teams. You could make an equally compelling argument for either. The easy way out would be to say Hardy as a 2A player faced a higher caliber of competition, but I am not even going to try and sell that given the quality of teams Bob Lonergan schedules and just how good Nick Lonergan was in big games throwing the baseball. For me, the deciding factor was this: Hardy's miniscule ERA. The Titan Senior gave up a grand total of just four Earned Runs this Spring in 50 Innings, which works out to a .80 ERA. That fact that Austin issued on 11 walks this season is equally impressive and illustrative of his unmatched dominance on the hill. Hardy ended his season with a 7-1 record, added a pair of saves, and struck out 85 batters (just two shy of Lonergan's 87 K's in 11 fewer innings) to close out his stellar career. Bottom line, there was no more effective front line stopper in Tri State baseball this season and lets just state the obvious here: it's really hard to ever vote against the season's Ace of Aces in these type ballots because pitching matters so much. And his no-hitter against Liberty might be the seminal moment of the 2013 baseball season. At the plate, Austin hit a very tidy .548 and struck out just four times all year. He finished his year with a pair of home runs and 22 runs batted in. At shortstop, Hardy has spent the last three years wowing us with soft hands and the ability to make the hard play look easy. I've said it over and over again, I think Monmouth got a tremendous steal, in every sense of the word, getting a kid whose skill set probably merited more attention from bigger schools. Their gain is everyone else's loss.
Runner Up: NICK LONERGAN, Routt
2013 KHQA BASEBALL COACH OF THE YEAR
CLINT SMITH, Canton
Rationale: Considering how highly I pegged the Tigers in the preseason, I'd be lying if said Canton's ugly early season loss to Palmyra didn't shake my confidence. Let's not mince words, the Tigers woefully under-achieved out of the gate, given their returning talent, and it wasn't hard for those looking to connect the dots to want to lay blame at the feet of the team's new coach. Give Clint Smith credit for reversing the polarity in Tiger Country and finding his voice quickly in the wake of the early season slump. As the old adage says, it's not where you start, but where you finish that matters and the new Canton Boss deftly led his team to its First State Tournament berth in 25 years. In retrospect, Clint proved to be good in crisis. The guys is a unique mix of high strung intensity and dry wit, which proved to be the right alchemy with a group of players who previously could never seem to get over the top. Smith proved fantastic at coaxing the best out of all of his players fashioned a narrative, particularly in the postseason, where every kid (superstar or bottom of the lineup guy, season veteran or green underclassmen) took ownership and had a hand in creating this incredible postseason runs that was equal parts Maalox Moments and soaring excitement. More than any coach in recent memory, in any sport, Clint's own personal energy seemed to reflect/channel to his players in a positive way. He made his kids believe, time and again, even in dire circumstances and that is pretty rare. Look, it's not hard to convince a Tyler Niemann or Austin Hoewing they are equal to a difficult task. To coax the same level of confidence and leadership from Sophomores and Freshmen and kids who weren't name players coming in? That is pretty special.
Runner Up: RICH MCGHGHY, Fort Madison
2013 KHQA BREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR
KALEB BRADSHAW, Griggsville-Perry
Rationale: Arrived on the varsity roster without much fanfare, but this Sophomore Powerhouse quickly established himself as a lynchpin of the Tornadoes Regional Championship campaign and the West Central Conference's most pleasant All Conference Surprise. The lanky Sophomore showed instant star power on the hill, winning seven games (against just three losses) and giving G-P a "counter-ace" to Dryden Craven. And with a superb 1.67 ERA on the season, Kaleb proved himself every bit the ace. It's telling that Kaleb earned the team's Pitching Award at the year end banquet. As an added bonus, Bradshaw flashed top end power in the middle of the Tornado line-up, hitting six home runs on the season and emerging as a Brett Taylor type "all around" option that will pitchers fearful of spotting the ball over the plate in the hitter friendly confines at Perry. Kid with an extremely bright future...and a not to shabby present for a 15 year old.
Runner Up: Dakota Shaw, Keokuk
2013 ALL DO OR DIE TEAM
WILL FUNKENBUSCH, Palmyra
Rationale: No area pitcher made more positive strides this season than Palmyra's unquestioned Ace of Staff. The Co-Clarence Cannon Conference Player of the Year became an absolute bulldog on the mound in his Senior Season, challenging every hitter he faced in the strike zone and treating every at bat as if it was a war. Not to oversimplify it but Will's concentration level on the hill was astoundingly improved and he showed great fire and intensity in pounding the strike zone and defying guys to hit his best stuff. Will's psychological improvement as a pitcher was rewarded by a sterling 7-1 record and a lean .89 ERA.
LANE HANZEL, Liberty
Rationale: The smarter move here might be to play the Eagle's resident rainmaker at Catcher, where his cannon-like arm and brilliant backstop IQ would certainly bolster any defense. And its hard not to love a kid who hits .470 on the year and is an absolute holy terror running the bases (see also his five triples) Still, for my money, I think Lane's unique diamond presence and resilience here better serve this team on the mound. The Ace of Staff who led his program to a first ever regional title, Hanzel's tenacity is best demonstrated by his ability to finish. He had six complete games on the season, three one hitters and a no-no at Griggsville-Perry's expense. He finished the year with 5 wins and 2 saves and a 1.26 ERA. All that is impressive enough, but the thing that separates Hanzel her for me is that on those games when he didn't have his "A" level stuff, or his defense betrayed him, he still found a way to finish and get outs. Just a super competitor who was also a tremendous leader on a very young team.
DRYDEN CRAVEN, Griggsville-Perry
Rationale: Crafty and unflappable, Dryden Craven proved the perfect hybrid of flame thrower and control freak on the mound. Yes, the Tornado Senior has a live arm but more importantly, he flat knows how to pitch and doesn't make mistakes. More to the point, the kid just wins. He went 8-1 this season with a 1.85 ERA and 81 strikeouts. It's telling that MacMurray Baseball Coach Andrew Bartman made the Tornado Scholar Athlete one of his highest profile recruits this off-season; a prospect who is only going to get better now that he is focusing on one sport and benefiting from a more evolved strength and conditioning program.
COLLIN EAVES, Fort Madison
Rationale: The Tri State's resident "control freak" emerged as Rich McGhghy's Ace of Staff in a tour de force Senior Season that saw him allow just eight earned runs in nearly 55 innings (1.02 ERA) and walk a mind numbing six batters. The kid averaged nearly eight strikeouts for every one base on balls he issued this season and baffled Bloodhound opponents to the tune of a .213 team batting average against him. Collin's strangely pedestrian win/loss record (5-5 on the year) is more indicative of the opponents he was used against, rather than any personal failing on the season. Bottom line, there was no more reliable and bankable "big game" pitcher in Tri State Baseball this season.
ANDREW JACKSON, Jacksonville
Rationale: El Presidente returns to us for his second tour of All Do or Die honors duty after helping lead the Crimsons to a share of the Central State Eight Title; the first time for that accomplishment in program history. Jackson fashioned an 8-3 record this season while twirling to the tune of a very impressive 1.73 ERA, particularly given the level of competition he faced. Andy became a much better finisher in his senior season with 64 strikeouts and really made a nice splash on the offensive side with a .350 batting average, 20 stolen bases and team leading 41 runs scored.
MILES WENTZEIN, Fort Madison
Rationale: Super Sophomore proved to be more than just the area's most electrifying Point Guard. Miles struck out 41 batters in 42 innings pitched, limited Hound opponents to a combined .155 batting average on the season, and compiled a 1.50 ERA in route to four wins. An true "across the board" force for Fort Madison, Miles also stole 22 bases on the year, reached base in 45% of his at bats, and hit .339 for the year; not to mention played outstanding defense in the outfield.
DYLAN JONES, Routt Catholic
ZACH VAHLE, Quincy Notre Dame
KYLE MATTHEWS, West Central
AUSTIN HOEWING, Canton
ANDREW EILERS, Quincy High
CORDIE KIGER, Scotland County
BUBBA PATTERSON, Beardstown
KYLE FULTON, Monroe City
KENDALL KOTHE, Macon
NATHAN MEKDARA, Brown County
TYLER NIEMANN, Canton
Rationale: Your odds on favorite for 2014 Player of the Year honors. Tremendously athletic receiver who already fields the position at a college level. He's the defensive equivalent of having a high end shortstop wearing the tools of ignorance; with darned near Dominic Miles-esque range and mobility back there. Niemann also possesses a text book swing and terrific command of the strike zone. Tyler powered the Tigers to the MSHSAA Final Four with five home runs, fifteen stolen bases, and a stellar .423 batting average. Scary thing is, Tyler has barely scratched the surface yet as a hitter and his swing has tremendous power potential going forward. Smart, unflappable kid with terrific baseball blood lines and a great diamond demeanor. The can't miss star of the 2014 season.
BRENDAN ROSS, Louisiana
Rationale: Four sport star who saved his best for the Spring, posting NEMO's top individual state golf finish and earning Clarence Cannon Conference Co-MVP honors in concurrent campaigns. That takes some doing, my friends. Few area hitters protected the play at as fervently, nor did more with bad pitches. Brendan has great discipline and a compact, effective swing. Ross would turn at bats into his own personal chess match and find a way to win, which he did to the tune of a .476 batting average and an even more impressive .633 on-base clip. Stating the obvious, the kid was the living embodiment of the phrase "hard out." Very good all around athlete who made a seamless transition to the difficulties of defending the plate.
JOHN NAGEL, Fort Madison
Rationale: Tremendously potent bat for the Spring Darling Bloodhounds who posted a team highs in slugging percentage (.504) hits (44) and doubles (11) to go along with 23 RBI on the year. Nagel also finished second on the squad in batting average (.383) and stolen bases, going a perfect 17 for 17 on the base paths this season; certainly a wonderful added luxury from a catcher. Kid is dripping with potential given his long frame and stellar track and field background as jumper. Don't be surprised if John isn't a highly coveted Division One or Two type prospect when his JUCO run is up at Southeastern CC.
BEN BROWN, Macomb
CALEB KIZER, Palmyra
MASON FAIRLEY, Quincy High
FLOYD LOMELINO, Jacksonville
LUKE STRATTON, Marion County
NATE LEISENRING, Keokuk
DOMINIC MILES, QND, First Base
Rationale: Yep, I am totally cheating here but it was a down year at this position and Dom did indeed move out from behind the plate (where he was of course, a bona fide superstar and All Stater) and into the infield late in the year to save some wear and tear, so I at least feel semi-convicted in trying to pull this argument off. Given his reputation, Miles didn't see much to hit at the top of the Raider line up, as evidenced by his 26 walks in 87 total plate appearances. So even though his .333 batting average and 16 RBI looks a little thin here given the more inflated numbers of his teammates, realize that Miles was a bankable an on-base threat as existed in Tri State Baseball. And the fear factor he inflicted certainly benefited the kids below him in the Raider lineup. And yes, his Defensive Abilities were as good relative to his position (yeah, I know, he's a catcher) as any player in our region. The kid was three years worth of spectacular defensive oohs and aahs. Tremendous grab for Josh Rabe and Quincy University.
ETHAN BORROWMAN, Pittsfield, Middle Infield
Rationale: One of the Tri State's most efficient sources of offense. The Saukee Senior cobbled together a very impressive .451 batting average amid a relatively new and rebuilt Pittsfield Batting Order. Few hitters in recent memory were better, more natural RISP threats as Ethan drove in 36 runs and belted a pair of home runs. Super smart kid with great Defensive Instincts and incredibly soft hands fielding the baseball. As we saw from both basketball and baseball, a young man with range and tenacity and a desire to excel at everything he does. As low maintenance a kid as you could ever hope to coach. Tell Borrowman what you want him to do and he simply goes out and handles his business at a supremely high level.
NICK LONERGAN, Routt Catholic, Shortstop
Rationale: Your 2012 KHQA Baseball Player of the Year came within a whisker of an unprecedented repeat here. Bottom line, Lonergan ranks with any hitter I've seen come through the Tri States in my now eighteen year tenure and his senior season was a glowing testament to just how luminous this three year starter+ has become. In route to his second straight All State nomination, Nick hit an area best .567 in 97 total at bats. He had 55 hits this season, which is a staggering number considering his reputation and the inherent "name recognition" factor that made opponents not want to pitch to him. Maybe most impressively of all, he struck out a grand total of twice this season. Probably the truest Five Tool Player in Tri State Baseball, Lonergan mixes tremendous speed (22 stolen bases, 38 runs scored) with fluidly generated power (5 HR, 35 RBI) to give his Uncle Bob the most complete Offensive Weapon in Tri State Baseball. Kid was no slouch as a pitcher either, going 8-2 on the hill with a 1.70 ERA and 87 strikeouts. Lincoln Land is getting the steal of the century landing Nick Lonergan.
BRETT TAYLOR, Macomb High, Third Base
Rationale: Proof positive that the description of Brett Taylor as the Tri State's most potent "power hitter" didn't apply solely to the gridiron. The one kid in our area seemingly immune to the home run numbing effects of the BBCor Bats, Taylor mashed an area leading 10 home runs and 41 RBI this season. And even when the ball didn't leave the confines of Phil Bradley Field, Brett was still able to reek havoc with a .540 batting average enriched with 13 doubles and 4 triples. He doesn't get near enough credit for it, but Brett turned himself into a darned fine ace on the hill for the Bombers the last two years. His senior year resume highlights include a 6-2 record, 2.19 ERA, and 68 total strikeouts. Kid is just a fantastic all around athlete and might be well worth a Spring Flyer for Ryan Brownlee and the WIU Baseball team.
JON KRAMER, Utility, Beardstown
Rationale: Unanimous All League selection in the Prairieland South who helped to cement the Tiger Offense with a .447 batting average and a pair of home runs. Another player with great clutch ability at the plate, as evidenced by his 38 RBI. A viable running threat as well who swiped 10 bases on the season.
JACOB RILEY, Fort Madison
BROCK BUTLER, Palmyra
TYLER ORMOND, Liberty
ALEX MILLION, Quincy High
NOLAN ARD, Illini West
COLE THURMAN, Rushville Industry
RYAN LINDSEY, Routt Catholic
TIM WOODWARD, Brown County
JOSH MILLARD, Triopia
JAKE WALCH, Western
AUSTIN BOEHS, West Central
Rationale: An ideal lead-off hitter and proof positive that speed kills. The Cougars explosive Junior showed great plate discipline and an ability to put the bat on the baseball. He hit at a .448 clip this season and scored 20 runs. One of those guys that gave catchers ulcers with his penchant for creating havoc on the bases as Austin ended up with 19 steals on the season. Honestly, is there a single sport out there that this kid isn't good at? Should be in line for huge Senior campaign.
BRANDON BERHORST, Canton
Rationale: The top RBI man on the Tri States Top Team, Brandon Berhorst proved every bit the All Stater by setting a business like tone for his Tiger Teammates. Top notch Defensive player with tremendous range and a strong arm. Didn't commit a single error this season. Just a flat out winner; a kid who made State Quarterfinals appearances in three different sports in 2012-2013
DUSTIN WOODCOCK, Jacksonville
Rationale: Crimson Junior star is already pledged Division One (SIUE) and has the credentials to back up that acclaim. Led the Central State Eight with 38 total RBI this season while hitting .411 with 13 doubles. Also doubles as an outstanding pitcher who won 5 games for PJ Moore this past season.
BEN WHALEN, Routt Catholic
BRODY GRONEWOLD, Illini West
PAXTON HARMON, West Hancock
BLAKE ROGERS, Monroe City
DEREK SCHONE, Triopia
COY DOROTHY, West Hancock
DAKOTA SHAW, Keokuk
Rationale: Chiefs Sophomore really put it together nicely, both on the hill and at the plate, where he posted at team best .404 batting average, .608 slugging clip, .446 OBP and three home runs. A young man who never gets cheated on a swing, Shaw ripped 27 RBI and scored 31 runs. As his eye for pitches matures, he could be really special.
SETH BROWN, Palmyra
Rationale: All he does is rake the baseball. One of my favorite players in that he is a bit of an old school Kruk-esque throwback. Tough left handed hitter who would not surrender an inch of the plate to opposing pitchers. His approach was mighty effective as evidenced by his .571 on base percentage and team high .464 batting average
SETH LEEZER, Central
WYATT PROPER, South Shelby
BRAXTON SQUIER, Illini West
SHEA FLESNER, Southeastern
THE 2013 ALL HUSTLE TEAM
A squad comprised of the criminally underrated and unsung
Catcher: ETHAN ANDERSON, Mark Twain
Pitcher: TREVOR KNIPE, West Hancock
Pitcher: IZACK HIVELY, Western
First Base: BRANDT AMES, Keokuk
Second Base: JOSH DEAN, Pittsfield
Shortstop: JORDAN CHAPEL, QND
Third Base: ERIC HUGENBERG, Hannibal
Utility: KOBY BROWN, Liberty
Utility: JOSH HULTZ, Palmyra
Outfield: JACK NEISEN, Highland
Outfield: DALTON CHANNELL, Louisiana
Outfield: COY DOROTHY, West Hancock
Designated Hitter: JONATHAN TEMENAK, Fort Madison
2013 YOUNG LIONS SQUAD
Superstars of tomorrow, served up today on an All Underclass Roster of Sophomores and Frosh
Pitcher: KALEB BRADSHAW, Griggsville-Perry
Pitcher: JUSTIN TALLMAN, Quincy Notre Dame
Catcher: WYATT LOGSDON, Triopia
Infielder: JOEY POLAK, Quincy Notre Dame
Infielder: LOGAN IKERD, Keokuk
Infielder: ANDREW HARDY, West Hancock
Infielder: DALLAS CASTAGNA, Louisiana
Infielder: DAKOTA SHAW, Keokuk
Outfielder: NOLAN ARD, Illini West
Outfielder: BEN ROONEY, Central Lee
Outfielder: MILES WENTZEIN, Fort Madison