MFL MarMac baseball team has season of learning experiences

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Bryce Burke

Nathan Johanningmeier

Garret Keehner

By Head Coach Brandon Burke

The 2016 Bulldog baseball season was full of learning experiences and teachable moments. The team finished the season with a 5-23 record. 

At the beginning of the season, the coaching staff was excited to work with this group of kids, but didn’t really know exactly what they had in the team. They were quick to find that this team was full of young talent and potential, but lacked experience.

As the summer progressed, this collection of inexperienced but talented players experienced their fair share of heartbreaking losses and hard-fought wins. In most games, the Bulldogs started seven freshmen and eighth graders, and even started up to eight freshmen and eighth graders on some nights. 

During the middle of the season, the Bulldogs turned a corner and started making veteran plays for most of the game. The team would constantly put together four or five innings of great baseball, but couldn’t quite get over the hump. On numerous occasions, a 4-3 ball game became an 8-3 ball game in favor of the other team.

These small steps in the right direction were especially present in a 4-3 loss to Edgewood-Colesburg, a team that made the state tournament. The Bulldogs had a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh and couldn’t quite close the deal. A few weeks later, the Bulldogs faced the fourth-ranked North Linn Lynx and, although the score ended 14-4, the Bulldogs were up 4-3 heading into the bottom of the fourth and couldn’t quite land the knockout punch. These two games showed that, when the young Bulldogs played their best baseball, they could play with any team in the state. 

In the coming seasons, these young players will become experienced veterans and they will expect to win games against tough teams like this year’s Ed-Co and North Linn teams.

The Bulldogs will lose three seniors, Tyler Tayek, Rob Reichard and Bryce Burke. The leadership skills and attitudes of Tayek and Reichard will be sorely missed. Burke was the only senior who played before this season and was a four-year starter. His hitting and pitching skills will be sorely missed next season. Burke finished the season with a batting average of .500, which is believed to be the highest batting average in school history. 

The Bulldogs will return eight starters next season. The team looks primed for a huge improvement in the win-loss department and expects to be much more confident in themselves. In the pitching department, the Bulldogs will return top pitchers Michael Egan, Cedrick Drahn, JP Murphy, Kaleb Tilson and JT Stocker. At the plate, the Bulldogs will return top hitters Garret Keehner, Nathan Johanningmeier, Korby Keehner, Peyton Meisner and JP Murphy.

This season, the Bulldog baseball team experienced a positive culture shock. The team had the highest participation in years, and guys made massive strides during the season in terms of baseball knowledge and skills. The future of the program is very bright and the coaching staff is already looking forward to beginning off-season training over Christmas break. 

 

Three Bulldogs earn all-conference honors

Three MFL MarMac baseball players received Upper Iowa Conference all-conference honors this season, with senior Bryce Burke named to the first time, while freshmen Nathan Johanningmeier and Garret Keehner earned honorable mention recognition.

Burke excelled throughout the season at not just the plate, but defensively and on the mound, as well. Offensively, he compiled a .500 batting average, believed to be the highest in school history, while driving in 18 runs and scoring 21 runs. He also swiped 32 bases and led the team in doubles, with 14. In addition, Burke pitched 20 and two-thirds innings for MFL MarMac, going 2-2 with a 4.74 ERA and holding opponents to a .222 batting average. 

Johanningmeier, an infielder throughout the season, put together a .323 batting average. He had 10 RBIs and scored 11 runs. Defensively, he had an .852 fielding percentage.

Keehner, who anchored the heart of the Bulldogs’ order, amassed a .314 batting average, while driving in 12 RBIs and scoring nine runs. He was second on the team in doubles, with seven. In the outfield, Keehner had a .953 fielding percentage.

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