VICTOR — HLV's baseball team has recorded its best start in a decade.
The Warriors are also on pace for one of their most successful seasons in more than 12 years. The culture has changed from a winless season in 2015 to a third straight winning season.
“There is a standard of how we hold ourselves, how hard we work in practice and coachable we are,” third-year HLV head coach Wes Warwick said. “Our standard isn’t we are going to win 20 games a year. It is more along the lines that we’re going to get better. We’re going to create a culture of improvement and desiring to get better.”
The Warriors are ranked 10th in Class 1A by the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association and sit atop the South Iowa Cedar League. HLV is 17-2 overall with a 14-1 conference mark and is the top seed in 1A District 10.
The results aren’t a surprise. The Warriors returned 10 letterwinners, including seven with starting experience from last year’s team that went 20-7.
“The way we finished last year, we knew there would be a chance we were going to be up there, receiving votes or knocking on the door to jump in the top 10, but the focus wasn’t to be ranked,” Warwick said. “When we sat down at the beginning of the season, not once did we mention being ranked. We talked about winning conference, district, substate and making it to Principal Park.”
Current seniors Dean Schaull, Cody Frahm and Brendan Wood were eighth-graders and Warwick was a first-year assistant for that 0-23 season. They have watched progress each season, improving to 11-13 in 2016 and 14-11 in 2017 that snapped six straight losing seasons.
The junior class experienced success at the junior-high level and has helped with the turnaround in the program. Warwick said the program has always had talented athletes, but lacked baseball knowledge and acumen.
This group grasps the game well, allowing him to focus on advanced concepts in practice.
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“We have a really determined group of kids,” Warwick said. “It’s been refreshing to see kids set goals and work to achieve them. The issues we’re facing this year are totally different from the issues we faced in the 0-23 season.”
Schaull earned all-state honors last season, batting .510 with 53 runs and 31 stolen bases. He has continued the impressive production, hitting .515 with 35 hits and stealing 31 bases already. Wood isn’t far behind with a .433 average and 17 RBIs, trailing Brody Wolf by one for the team lead.
Wolf is 7-1 with a 0.95 earned-run average, while Carson Cheney is 6-1 with a 1.54 ERA.
Warwick said pitching and hitting has been the strengths. The Warriors own a 1.42 ERA, twice as good as any year Warwick has been with the program. HLV’s offense averages nine runs a game.
Camaraderie plays a key part bringing it all together. Schaull is quiet and leads by example at the plate and in center field. Wood is a little more vocal, but plays hard and tough, serving as the workhorse. Juniors Kody Timm and Caden Fontinel speak up and keep the team poised and on control. It is leadership by committee.
“We have so many kids who mesh really well,” Warwick said. “There might not be one kid that stands out as a leader, but there are definitely a lot of kids who come together to form this unique family that feeds off each other really well.”
NFHS expands DH role
The National Federation of State High School Associations Baseball Rules Committee recommended to expand the designated hitter role for the 2020 season. The change was the only revision suggested in meetings June 2-3 in Indianapolis and was approved by the NFHS board of directors.
Beginning next season, coaches will have two options to use a designated hitter. They can still assign a designated hitter to bat for one of nine defensive starters. The revision will allow the designated player to also be a starting defensive player.
Pitchers will be able to stay in a game as a hitter when they are no longer pitching, but the rule wasn’t meant strictly for the pitcher-DH role.
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“The rule provides additional avenues for other position players as well,” NFHS Director of Sports and Student Services and liaison to the NFHS Baseball Rules Committee Elliot Hopkins said in a news release. “The change allows coaches to strategize how to keep players in the game to contribute offensively while allowing another player a chance to participate on defense.”
East Buc's Nathan Schmitt hits for cycle
East Buchanan’s Nathan Schmitt recorded a rare baseball feat Monday against Starmont. The senior third baseman hit for the cycle — a single, double, triple and home run in the same game — in a 17-5 victory to cap a doubleheader sweep.
Schmitt, who is hitting .333 this season, went 4-for-4 with six RBIs and three runs. He belted a two-run shot in the first inning for his first career varsity home run and the program’s first in two years. He hit a two-run single in the following frame, adding a double in the third and a stand-up triple in the fourth.
Schmitt finished the twinbill with six hits, seven RBIs and six runs scored. He has seven extra-base hits this season, including four doubles and two triples.
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