By Doug Brenneman,
The Golden Triangle News Service has selected its small school baseball team for the 2018 season.
A coach, a captain and players are selected from the following teams in the GTNS area -- Mid-Prairie, Highland, Columbus, Keota, Iowa Mennonite School, Winfield-Mount Union, New London, Pekin, Cardinal and Van Buren.
The GTNS coach was Brad Helmerson of New London.
Things may have been tight in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference this year, but there was one team that stuck out in the South Division throughout the regular season. Helmerson?s New London squad lost just two regular-season games, and after a district semifinal loss finished the year 21-3. The Tigers also crept their way into the Class 1A Top 10 rankings before the season was over.
The GTNS captain is Pekin?s Tanner Bainbridge.
Pekin had a 17-6 record this season. Bainbridge was stellar during his junior season for the Panthers, leading the team in at-bats with 74, runs scored with 29, hits with 34, doubles at nine, 25 RBI, three sacrifices, eight stolen bases in as many attempts, five hit by pitches, an on-base percentage of .547 and a batting average of .459.
On top of being an exceptional hitter, Bainbridge went 4-1 in five appearances on the mound and had 30 strikeouts versus 12 walks in 23 innings pitched. Bainbridge finished the year with a 1.22 ERA and his opponent?s batting average was a mere .105.
From the outfield, Robert Yoder, a senior at Highland, led the Huskies with 25 RBI, a .423 batting average, a .538 slugging average and reached base in half of his at-bats.
He successfully stole 22 of 23 bases and had one of the three home runs on the team. He also hit six doubles.
Junior Brody Burton helped Highland (17-12) from his shortstop position when he wasn?t pitching. He was picked as a utility selection for the GTNS team.
Burton reached base in exactly half of his 84 at-bats. He carried a .393 batting average and a .512 slugging percentage with six doubles and two triples. He was first on the Huskies with 22 runs, 33 hits, 13 walks and 24 of 25 stolen bases.
On the mound, Burton had one save and a 4-4 record in 44 1/3 innings pitched with 83 strikeouts to 20 walks for a minuscule 1.26 earned run average. Opponents batted .163 against him.
Competing in the area?s toughest conference, Mid-Prairie?s Brad Tornow was one of only two sophomores to make the team.
Tornow was picked at a utility slot. He led the Golden Hawks (12-16) to fourth place in the River Valley Conference South Division, a league that had its top two teams make the state tournament.
Tornow led Mid-Prairie in at-bats (76), hits (23, triples (2), bases on balls (20), on-base percentage (.448), slugging percentage (.398) and batting average (.303). He was second on the team in runs scored (16), RBI (11) and third in doubles (3) and stolen bases (10 of 11 attempts).
Tornow also fashioned a 4-4 record in 10 starts on the mound and four appearances. He struck out 70 and walked 27 in 45 2/3 innings pitched with a 1.69 earned run average. Opponents batted just .165 against him.
Iowa Mennonite School?s Eli Ours was the lone freshman to make the GTNS team.
He was an infield selection. Ours, a third baseman, helped Iowa Mennonite (16-10) get within one game of the state tournament for the second year in a row. He led IMS with a .362 batting average, a .567 on-base percentage and 27 walks. His 16 stolen bases in 17 attempts was second to his brother Cole, a senior who stole 27 of 28, and batted .345 with an OBP of .477. Ours? coach, Danny Hershberger, led IMS to a regional final win over New London.
Van Buren (12-9) had two infielders selected.
Junior Jacob Plecker was the Warrior?s leader as he hit .515 with a .588 on-base percentage while slugging .574, which were all team-highs. Plecker also lead the team with 35 hits, 16 RBI and 14 walks drawn and finished second in runs scored with 21, doubles with four and stolen bases with three.
Primarily an infielder, Plecker also pitched, collecting a 3-2 record in 37 2/3 innings with a 3.16 ERA, 26 strikeouts versus only nine walks and an opponent?s batting average of .110.
Tommy Laughlin scored 24 times for Van Buren in just 51 total at-bats. On top of the 18 times the senior hit safely, he crowded the plate for 15 hit by pitches and 14 walks drawn, giving him a respectable .353 average and an outstanding .580 on-base percentage. Laughlin recorded team-highs in doubles with five, a triple, a home run and five stolen bases.
Laughlin also struck out 36 opponents in just 24 1/3 innings on the mound while walking six hitters and allowing an opponent?s batting average of .252. His most impressive stat may be that in 80 plate apperances, Laughlin struck out only twice.
The fourth infielder was Pekin senior Torrell Washington. Washington led the Panthers with four home runs, a triple and a slugging percentage of .658, while finishing second on the team in at-bats with 73, runs scored with 27, hits with 26, doubles with eight and 24 RBI. The recent graduate hit .356 with a .472 on-base percentage and had 14 strikeouts in as many innings of relief for the Pekin bullpen.
Cardinal?s Colby Aschenbrenner was an outfield selection. The sophomore speedster stole 25 bases and also led the team in batting average at .420, slugging percentage at .545 and hits with 37 while finishing in the top three in at-bats with 88, doubles with seven, 27 RBI and an on-base percentage of .480.
Aschenbrenner threw 15 2/3 innings of relief for the Comets and struck out 15 while walking only six batters and allowing opponents to hit just .185, cumulatively.
Keontae Luckett, a junior from New London, is the third GTNS outfielder.
Luckett continued to be a pesky hitter in the lower part of New London?s lineup this year, using his speed on the basepaths to wreak havoc on SEISC South Division opponents. Luckett hit .351 this season with two doubles and 11 RBI. Luckett was successful in 23 of 25 stolen-base attempts and was one of four Tigers to score 20 runs or more.
The third utility selection was Cardinal senior Wyatt Gatton. Cardinal was 16-10 this season.
For pitchers, strikeout-to-walk ratio is a good predictor for success because it shows both dominance and ability to work the zone. Gatton had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of more than 9 to 1 with 66 and seven, respectively, over a team-high 52 2/3 innings. Gatton showed poise on the mound, only hitting five of 204 batters faced while allowing 19 earned runs for a 2.53 ERA.
The senior also batted .301 with team-highs in doubles with eight, RBI at 28 and walks drawn at 22 along with 26 stolen bases, an OBP of .463 and slugging percentage of .438.
Dominant pitching was the number one reason for New London?s success this year on the diamond and the GTNS team has two New London hurlers for its pitchers.
Nobody on the Tigers threw more innings than senior Britt Noel. Noel went 6-2 with a 1.35 ERA as well as a team-leading 46 strikeouts.
At the plate, Noel hit .338 with three doubles, three triples and 11 RBI. He also went 12 for 12 in stolen-base attempts.
Junior Isaac McSorley continued to be one of the stars for New London baseball in 2018. McSorley went 8-0 on the mound with a 1.85 ERA and 40 strikeouts. His final win of the season was a clutch relief outing against Danville in the district quarterfinals.
At the plate, McSorley went .381 with eight doubles, four triples and four home runs from the leadoff spot. He finished the year with 14 RBI and went 24 of 25 in stolen-base attempts.
Handling the New London talent on the mound was catcher Sam Loyd, who also spent time on the hill. Whether Loyd was on the mound or behind the plate, runs weren?t coming easy against the New London Tigers this season.
Loyd caught for two pitchers who each had a sub-2.00 ERA and had a minuscule ERA of his own, going 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 25 strikeouts.
Loyd had the best batting average on the team as well, hitting .429 with two doubles and a team-leading 19 RBI. He was also perfect on the bases, stealing 12 bases in 12 attempts.
TRIANGLE NEWS SERVICE
SMALL SCHOOL BASEBALL TEAM
Coach: Brad Helmerson, New London
Captain: Tanner Bainbridge, Junior, Pekin
Pitcher: Britt Noel, Senior, New London
Pitcher: Isaac McSorley, Junior, New London
Catcher: Sam Loyd, Senior, New London
Infield: Torell Washington, Senior, Pekin
Infield: Jacob Plecker, Junior, Van Buren
Infield: Tommy Laughlin, Senior, Van Buren
Infield: Eli Ours, Freshman, Iowa Mennonite
Outfield: Robert Yoder, Senior, Highland
Outfield: Keontae Luckett, Junior, New London
Outfield: Colby Aschenbrenner, Sophomore, Cardinal
Utility: Brody Burton, Junior, Highland
Utility: Brad Tornow, Sophomore, Mid-Prairie
Utility: Wyatt Gatton, Senior, Cardinal
The All-GTNS small school softball teams were selected by Justin Webster of the Fairfield Ledger, Doug Brenneman of the Washington Evening Journal and Andy Krutsinger of the Mt. Pleasant News.