Iowa Western Reivers

NEWS

Reiver baseball team looks deep, talented

Reiver baseball team looks deep, talented

by Pat Donohue - Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil

No baseball coach frowns upon having too much depth.

Iowa Western coach Marc Rardin considers himself lucky to have such a problem.

The 15th-year coach guided the Reivers to a 52-15 record in 2016 and a fourth-place showing at the NJCAA World Series, the team’s ninth trip in the last 10 seasons.

Much talent from that team advanced to four-year schools, but Rardin feels confident about the squad he’s assembled this season, filled with experience, gifted freshmen and valuable transfers. The Reivers will make their season debut Thursday against Seminole State and Western Oklahoma in Seminole, Okla. From there, they’ll travel to Gainesville, Texas, Friday to face North Central Texas in a doubleheader before completing the trip Saturday with a twin bill against Murray State in Tishomingo, Okla.

It’s a difficult stretch to begin the season, but Rardin will learn plenty over those three days.

“To me, what it does is it forces you to play and pitch some guys,” Rardin said. “If we just play four games, I’m not pitching everybody. You can’t. These first two games, we’re playing 18 innings. It’ll be a long day. My pitchers are on pitch counts, and guys will be forced to pitch. That gives our guys opportunities, and those opportunities are what they need to take with their development.

Pitching isn’t in short supply for the Reivers. The rotation is staffed with talented transfers, including Sioux City North alum Dan Tillo, a left-hander who came to IWCC from Kentucky. Left-hander Ryan Connolly joins the staff after playing at Nebraska, and right-hander Mitch Ragan (from Wayne State) will also contribute. Sophomore lefty Korey Kuhlmann, a Maple Valley-Anthon/Oto alum, also returns after throwing 51 1/3 innings last season.

Butler transfer Zach Barnes and sophomore Matt Eardensohn, who has signed with College World Series champion Coastal Carolina, will serve as closers. Freshmen Keatin Winn (Ollie, Iowa), Indigo Diaz (Vancouver, B.C.), Dalton Lind (Eaton, Colo.) and Andrew Wegner (Kearney, Neb.) will also see action.

“They’re lively, young arms, but now it’s time for the growth period,” Rardin said. “Having a good arm is one thing; having a pitchable arsenal is another. They’ve got to continue to be pitchable.”

To whom those pitchers will throw may be the biggest question mark of the new season. Catcher Mitch Thompson (Alexandria, Minn.) returns after hitting .296 as a freshman, but he’s dealt with leg injuries, as has freshman John Hawk (McClelland, Iowa/Omaha Creighton Prep). Sophomore Jake Kistaitis (Omaha) is another option although Rardin was hoping to use him more as a designated hitter. The injuries have forced the coach to reinstate Tanner Holen (Manhattan, Kan.), who was originally slated to redshirt after dealing with an illness that kept him home for a month. He will now be part of the mix.

“The big thing for me is the injury side,” Rardin said. “A foul ball and a concussion or a ball off the hand and you’re looking around on the bench. That’s what we’ve had to do the last couple weeks.”

The Reivers’ outfield might be their best asset. Sophomore Nick Menken (Bartlett, Ill.) is back after hitting .358 with a team-best 14 stolen bases, as is Jack Morock (Omaha), Alabama recruit Zach Hanna (Shawnee, Kan.) and Chase Hager (Davenport, Iowa). Redshirt freshman Louisville transfer Chris Botsoe (Hinsdale, Ill.) and freshman Tyler Reichenborn (Blaine, Minn.) have also proven consistent over the fall and winter.

“We want to develop and learn how to win games, but there are a lot of guys who are deserving of being out there with the way they act, what they’ve done and with their athleticism,” Rardin said.

Although rather young, the infield is impressing Rardin. Sophomore middle infielder Eric Mingus (Centennial, Colo.) is the most seasoned of the group after hitting .345 with 27 RBIs in 2016. Freshmen Hagen Holmstead (American Fork, Utah), Peter Hutzal (Calgary, Alberta) and Kobe Hyland (Spruce Grove, Alberta) could play key roles moving forward.

“Those guys can play short, third or second base, and at Iowa Western, that’s what our guys do,” Rardin said. “To be versatile and to let their athleticism move them to the next level, they have to be comfortable with uncomfortable.”