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FHS '9' lands seven on All-TVC East teams

Coach Gordon Culver 

  2015 was another successful year for the Eagle’s Nine. The Eagle’s continued their winning ways with a 21-13-1 record, their fourth consecutive 20 win season, 7th in program history.

  The Eagles also went 11-3 in the TVC to earn back to back TVC East Championships, which is the first time that has happened for the baseball program. They were able to accomplish all of this playing a tough schedule that included games against five regional finalists and division 1 semifinalist.

  There were numerous awards that this year’s guys earned as well. Colton Zimmer earned Academic All-State honors, while Noah Roche and Jack Tagget earned Academic All-District honors. Two Eagles were reward for their seasons by making a tough All-District team.

  Jack Tagget earned All-District and All-Region honors for his 8-2 record on the mound with 86 strike outs. Aaron Krafft earned All-District outfield honors for his .306 average, 24 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases. The Eagles earned many first team All-TVC honors thanks to their great league play. Brady Wood, Jake Robinson, Jack Tagget and Josh Szczepanski earned first team honors. Aaron Krafft was our lone second team member, while Colton Zimmer and Mitchell Kischnick earned honorable mention. Jake Robinson and Jack Tagget were also named to the All-Advertiser First Team Dream Team.

  This year’s team showed tremendous growth in skill as well as perseverance. This development was led by our seniors. Three year starting catcher Jake Robinson was a key part of our leadership this year. Jake was a force on offense for us leading the team in batting average, on base percentage, RBI’s and hits. Jake was also a leader on the defensive side of the ball, controlling the game from behind the plate taking over control of pitch calling and throwing out 50 percent of runners that attempted to steal.

  Two year starter Aaron Krafft expanded his role with the team this season adding pitching in addition to patrolling centerfield, and he stepped up in a big way. Aaron stepped into the number two pitcher role and went 8-3 on the season with a 2.12 ERA in 62 innings of work. Adding to those impressive pitching stats Aaron was a vital part of a high octane outfield that was lightning fast and tracked down everything. Offensively, Aaron moved up to the two spot in the lineup where he hit a respectable .306 but more importantly drove home 24 runners, stole 20 bases, crossed the plate 29 times and seven times laid down sacrifice bunts to move a lead runner up and successfully beat four of them out for singles.

  Colton Zimmer has been a two year starter for us that was the glue that held us together defensively all season. Colton transitioned to shortstop at the beginning of the season to fill in for Brady and did a great job. He earned his infield position with solid offense hitting .338 and batting in the lead-off spot for a few games, then when Nick got hurt at first, Colton slid into the second base position and again locked down our defense.

  Mitchell Kischnick was our left field specialist this season and earned his TVC honorable mention with great defense making several diving plays and throwing out a runner at home. Mitchell didn’t have the number of at bats as many of the other starters, but he definitely came up big when his teammates needed him, hitting a full 100 points better with runners in scoring position.

  Nick Szczepanski had a great start to the season hitting near .400 through the beginning of TVC season. Unfortunately, the end of the season wasn’t as good to Nick as a broken leg during our final TVC game against Lakeville sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Nick was a solid offensive weapon for us this season ending up with a .310 average with 14 RBIs. Nick was also a good defensive player at first offering a lot of leadership as he was often the only returning starter in the infield early in the season.

  We had two key returning players that were not seniors. Junior Jack Tagget had another great season on the mound and at the plate. Jack was second in many offensive categories trading the lead all season with Jake Robinson. His 28 RBIs and .358 average were a big part of our offense and success. Jack also continued his dominance on the mound going 8-2 with one no decision this year with an impressive 1.07 ERA (0.85 in TVC) and 86 strike outs which is fifth most all time in a single season. Jack also grew this season as a leader being voted team captain and instigating much of the dugout shenanigans that kept us loose and were a big part of our success.

  Brady Wood was our other returning junior that played a key role on both sides of the field. Brady started the season slow as he overcame an injury but his return marked a changed for us where we had the confidence to beat teams with our defense. The guys definitely responded to his presence on the field and stretched themselves to match the kinds of plays that he makes. Brady’s offense picked up sharply when he returned to defense and ended with a .317 average, 25 RBI’s, 33 runs scored and his 13 steals broke the school’s career steals record.

  There were several juniors that stepped their games up this season and helped to continue our success. Josh Szczepanski used his incredible speed to track everything down in the outfield and made several great throws throwing out two runners at first and one at home. Josh also jumpstarted our offense as our lead-off hitter. Josh hit .290 with a .415 on base percentage. Josh also did a great job of crossing the plate once on he was on. Josh stole 30 stolen bases this season, just a couple short of the school record, which put him in position to score a team high 34 times.

  Grant Reene played a variety of roles for us this season, but his biggest contribution came at the end of the season when he jumped into the first base role after Nick went down. Grant was a consistent offensive weapon for us hitting .239 with 16 runs scored and eight RBI’s.

  Randy Khan worked his way into an infield role with solid defense, playing second and third this season. Randy contributed on offense reaching base at a .323 clip with seven RBI’s and nine runs scored.

  Jared Lachman played first and pitched this season. Offensively Jared hit .244 and drove home five runners. On the mound Jared when 2-2 with a 3.08 ERA and 25 strike outs in 36 innings.

  Jacob Berg split time in right field and hit .261. He also threw in six games with a 1-1 record, striking out nine and earning a 3.5 ERA.

  Grant Leach played some third base this season. He used his great natural athletic abilities to hit .348 and scored nine times.

  Connor Maurer hit .300 for us and scored 16 runs this season. Connor came a long way in developing into good catcher throwing out three of the five attempted stolen bases against him.

  Noah Roche and Chandler Lail filled an important role for us on the mound. Both did an excellent job of throwing strikes and giving us quality innings. Noah took an unfortunate loss in the first game of the season giving up one run to Shepherd, and threw several other good innings striking out one and walking two. Chandler took the mound for us five times earning a 2-3 record, with one of those losses coming after he threw fourinnings of two run baseball against Division 1 semifinalist Kenowa Hills. He struck out five in his 15 innings of work.

  The 2015 season was another successful year with our first back to back TVC season and our first outright TVC championship in more than a decade. More importantly, this team grew significantly in character. They had injury adversities, significant losses and opportunities to let doubt ruin our goals, but the guys always had an answer. Someone on the team, often our captains, but the responsibility rotated and each time someone stepped up and rejuvenated us.

  It isn’t often that teams show that much heart, but special teams do which makes me excited for the future. We will miss the seniors that are leaving, they’ve had a tremendous career going 46-25-1 and bringing the program within 10 wins of getting back to a .500 win record which was lost in 1982.

  I’m excited about where the program has come, the way the guys have continued to step up and be champions and the quality of the work the guys coming up. It’ll be tough work, but I think the talent coming up is up to the challenge. 

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