Three Panthers named to all-area teamDilks, Amos and Smith receive honor, Christianer represents New London on all-GTNS team
The year 2013 saw a baseball team that had never made the state tournament climb all the way to the championship game.
Van Buren won a runner-up trophy in Des Moines and, not surprisingly, received the most selections on the all-GTNS baseball team with four.
The man guiding the Warriors through thick and thin this season was Chad Scott, who is the all-GTNS coach of the year. Scott led Van Buren to a 26-6 record and its first trip to Principal Park in school history.
Van Buren collectively batted an astonishing .331 with an on-base percentage of .445. The team also was extremely patient at the plate as it walked 153 times compared to just 112 strikeouts. Scott knew how to get the most out of his six-man rotation that held opponents to a .198 batting average and had an ERA of 2.22.
But while Van Buren had a number of talented players, it was Fairfield’s Joseph Hietpas that stood out among his peers and earned the title of captain of the all-GTNS team. The honor is simply one of many the junior received this year. He was named the SEC Conference’s Most Valuable Player and he was named to the first-team all-state.
At the plate this season, Hietpas batted a solid .324 with a .423 on-base percentage. He hit two homers, nine doubles and walked 17 times, more often than he struck out at 11 times.
Hietpas dominated the competition from the bump. He went 7-2 in 10 starts. In 56.1 innings, he allowed only 12 earned runs for an earned run average of 1.49. He recorded triple-digit strikeouts, 101, compared to just 25 walks and three hit batters. Opponents rarely made solid contact against him as they batted just .191.
Behind the plate for the all-GTNS stars is Cardinal sophomore catcher Cody Streeby. Streeby was one of the toughest outs in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference, which explains why he made the first-team all-conference. Streeby hit .412 and was on-base more often than not at a .505 clip.
On the all-GTNS team, Streeby would receive pitches from Elijah Wood of Washington and Dustin Amos of Mt. Pleasant.
For the second successive year, Washington landed a pitcher on the GTNS team. Wood was selected after starting a team-high eight games. He had the team’s best ERA among starters at 1.54. He fanned a team-high 73 batters. Wood led his squad with a .169 opponent batting average. The junior still has one more season to load up the stat sheet even more.
Amos earns a return trip to the all-GTNS team, this time as a pitcher, after going 7-3 on the mound for Mt. Pleasant this season. He had an ERA of just 2.10 over a team-high 60 innings and fanned 48 batters on the year. Amos and teammate Connor Shull combined to give the Panthers a pair of aces, credited with 14 of the team’s 17 wins this season. Amos also earned all-conference and all-district accolades for his efforts on the mound this year.
Walker Breard of Washington joins his teammate on the local team as an infielder. He lit up his team with his slugging ability. Breard had team-bests of 25 RBIs and .667 slugging percentage. On top of that he matched a club-best .323 hitting average with 93 at bats. He led his team in almost every category, home runs, triples and doubles. The junior was only one of five players to start all 30 games. He and the top two other batters will return for their final years.
Robby Laughlin was one of three Van Buren players to make the team, and he did it as an infielder. The junior batted .385 and was on-base at an amazing rate of .535. He scored 32 runs, drove in 37 and walked almost twice as often, 26 times, as he struck out, 14 times.
Kolby Allsup, a junior from Pekin, had an impressive season with the Panthers as he hit .459 and reached base .535 percent of the time. Allsup hit five triples and slugged .672.
Fairfield junior Mason Ellis rounds out the all-GTNS infield. Ellis led his team in hits with 37 and in RBIs with 22. He batted .389 and reached base at a .504 rate, also best on his team.
The all-GTNS outfield is just as stacked as its infield.
New London’s Matayo Christianer makes his first appearance on the all-GTNS team as an outfielder. The junior led the team with an OBP of .506 and hit .365 on the season — just one percentage point behind the team leader — and came up with some big plays in centerfield for the Tigers.
Dubbed the team’s best baserunner by Coach Brent Broeker, Mt. Pleasant sophomore Austin Smith was a big asset to the Panthers in his first season as a varsity starter. He was a perfect 13-for-13 in stolen bases, topping the team in that category. The outfielder also hit .338 on the season and was second on the team with an OBP of .488.
Will Mertens of Van Buren earned the honor of being the only freshman to make the all-GTNS team. The young Warrior was second on his team in runs with 35 and second in hits with 37. He batted .336 and had an on-base percentage of .407.
Mt. Pleasant’s Justin Dilks lands on the all-GTNS team for the first time in his first season as a varsity starter, and he does so as a utility man. Dilks pounded the ball this year, leading the team with a slash line of .455/.500/.693 in 88 at-bats. He had a team-high 11 doubles and two home runs, and he also smashed a pair of triples. The junior played at first base and designated hitter for the Panthers this season. He was chosen by his teammates as the Offensive Player of the Year, has received all-district and all-state recognition for his efforts, and now adds all-GTNS honors to that list.
The other utility player for the all-GTNS team is Garrett Saunders, who led the Van Buren Warriors to a state runner-up trophy. Saunders, who still has two more years of high school baseball, also led his team in many offensive statistical categories such as runs (37), hits (39), doubles (14), average (.398) and on-base percentage (.500). Saunders also tied for the team-lead in home runs with three.
The all-GTNS baseball team was chosen by Ashlee De Wit of the Mt. Pleasant News, Andy Hallman of the Fairfield Ledger and Xiomara Levsen of the Washington Evening Journal.