2012 Iowa Conference champions
The 2012 baseball season was the best in recent Central College history, yet coach Adam Stevens is confident the Dutch can be even more successful in 2013.
Stevens piloted Central to its first outright Iowa Conference championship in 64 years, setting a school season wins record with a 29-11 mark. The Dutch posted a glossy 19-5 league record, a comfortable four games ahead of the pack. It was the program’s fifth crown but first since sharing the title in 2006. Stevens received coach of the year honors from the league, D3baseball.com and the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association.
Seven contributors to last year’s club have graduated, including all-region honorees Joel Pulliam, a pitcher, and shortstop Mike Furlong. Pulliam shattered the school career records for strikeouts (226) and shutouts (5) and was named the league’s pitcher of the year. Furlong dominates the record books with 10 career marks, including hits (226), runs (174), triples (13), stolen bases (55) and assists (439). He started every game over four years and was a four-time all-league selection with three first-team nods.
While replacing the pitching, defense and leadership is a concern, Stevens believes the Dutch have an immediate edge over the competition with the return of seven position players and three starting pitchers.
“They understand what it takes to be successful and they’re determined to have another great season,” Stevens said. “They want to pick up where we left off last season, but they also understand last year will not help us win this year.”
Two-year starter Seth Carson is back at first base after hitting .254 with 20 RBI.
“Seth was solid defensively last year and he continues to improve offensively,” Stevens said. “He’s a great competitor and we like when he’s in the lineup for us.”
Junior Grant Seuferer transferred in from Marshalltown Community College and will provide backup. He is also a candidate at designated hitter.
“He’s sound defensively and can also swing,” Stevens said. “He has a good attitude and has been a great addition to the program.”
There are lots of options to fill second base, third base and shortstop.
“We have very athletic, multi-dimensional players that are strong defensively and can fill in adequately,” Stevens said. “It’ll be key for us to figure out where players are most comfortable and which lineup will help the team the most.”
Junior Adam Ariola will probably return to second base, where he started all 40 games last year, but he could also slide over to shortstop if needed. Ariola batted .218 with 20 RBI.
“Adam is one of our best athletes and has a chance for a really good season,” Stevens said. “He’s solid defensively and can run. We also think he’ll be one of our better hitters this year.”
Jordan Judkins is back at third base. He spent 40 games there last year, hitting .304 with 16 RBI and six stolen bases.
“Jordan had a breakout season last year and was a big part of our success,” Stevens said. “He probably has the best fundamentals among the infielders and is solid at the plate as well. He knows how to play the game.”
Robby Rushing, a junior transfer from Des Moines Area Community College, will make an immediate impact at shortstop, but could also see some innings at third base. A switch-hitter, Rushing batted .286 with nine RBI in 28 games at DMACC.
“Robby has great tools and is going to help us somewhere in the infield,” Stevens said. “We’re excited to have him with us.”
Sophomore Kirby Coppess and freshman Spencer Gritsch add depth to the mix.
“They both can play all three positions and will be good players, especially down the road,” Stevens said.
Possibly the biggest question mark in the infield is who will catch. Central graduated two starters in Josh Stanton and Max Seeman, an all-region pick.
“We also have decisions to make at catcher,” Stevens said. “We want to play whoever has the best defense. Whatever they bring offensively is a bonus.”
Junior Jace Ahrendsen is a top candidate. He spent most of his time at designated hitter last year and batted .188 in 48 times at the plate.
“He’s really improved defensively in the last couple years and is ready to go,” Stevens said. “The pitchers like to throw to him and he receives the ball well.”
Sophomore Zach Miller is also a contender.
“Zach played junior varsity last year and has really improved,” Stevens said. “We really like his work ethic and attitude and his strength is his defense.”
Trent Smith, a junior, is making a switch from the outfield and has potential.
“We converted Trent this fall and he is continuing to learn every day,” Stevens said.
The clear anchor in the outfield is senior center fielder and team co-captain Sam Stetzel. The club’s top hitter last year with a .387 average with 23 RBI, six doubles and eight stolen bases, Stetzel was a third-team D3baseball.com all-region honoree as well as a first-team all-conference choice and the team’s most valuable player.
“Sam is the epitome of what we want in a player,” Stevens said. “He has a great attitude and work ethic and works hard every day and wants to win. He’s in a position to be the leader on the field and we’re excited to see what he can do in his senior year.”
Senior Michael Jontz returns to left field. He batted .318 last year with 19 RBI and stole 15 bases, one base behind the team leader.
“We’ll look at Michael as our leadoff hitter,” Stevens said. “He’s solid offensively and can really run the bases. He’s probably our best all-around athlete and will be on the field in some way, shape or form.”
Senior Allen Mann is back at right field, where he started 36 games. He batted .227 with 19 RBI.
“He’s great on defense and has the potential to be a good hitter at the bottom of the order,” Stevens said. “He knows how to play the game and is also one of our best baseruners.”
Andrew O’Toole, a junior, could also see some innings. He has experience at second base, third base and outfield, but has seen the most action at designated hitter. O’Toole batted .280 with five RBI in 25 at bats last year.
“Andrew’s strength right now is his offense,” Stevens said. “We’ll work on his defense to help our depth.”
The Dutch will also get some help from sophomore Zach Zylstra, a transfer from Belhaven University (Miss.).
“Zach can play one of the corner positions and is also a DH candidate,” Stevens said.
Dakotah Wolken, a freshman from Marshalltown, will also figure into the mix.
“He has a world of potential and is the fastest or second fastest player on the team,” Stevens said. “We could see him being a center fielder down the road, but for now we want to figure out a way to use his speed.”
Junior Jake Effron could also contribute.
“Jacob was a role player for us last year and has been working his way up the depth chart,” Stevens said. “He’s solid defensively and can play any outfield position. He’s our best pinch runner off the bench and had a great fall season.”
Thomas Rodamer, a junior transfer from DMACC, will also press for action.
Last year’s pitching staff set the school’s season shutouts (6) and ERA (2.43) records. The Dutch have to handle the loss of Pulliam, but Stevens is confident in this year’s depth.
Senior team co-captain Dirk Lindaman emerged as a dominating hurler last year, posting a 6-1 record with a 1.79 earned run average. He fanned 37 batters while walking 16 in 60.1 innings. Lindaman was a second-team ABCA/Rawlings all-Central Region selection as well as a first-team all-conference pick.
“Dirk had an outstanding junior season and we’re looking to build off of it,” Stevens said. “He’s our top competitor on the mound and continues to fine-tune his craft.”
Ryan Goetzinger, a senior, fills the No. 2 spot in the rotation. He was 3-4 with a 3.13 ERA last year, striking out 39 batters with 19 walks in 54.2 innings.
“He threw a ton of conference games last year so he has a lot of experience and he has the tools and makeup to be one of the top pitchers in the league,” Stevens said. “He’s shown signs of that throughout his career and we’re looking for him to have a big year.”
Jontz, who saw some time on the mound as a sophomore, could serve as a starter or closer. He made 10 appearances in 2011 with four starts, compiling a 2.70 ERA in 30.0 innings. He fanned 24 batters and walked 16.
“He didn’t pitch much last year because of ankle injury at the start of the season, but he could really contribute this year,” Stevens said.
Junior Judson McKown has already smashed the school’s season ERA record (1.20) and games finished mark (13). He appeared in 17 games and recorded three saves while striking out 25 batters and walking 10 in 45 innings. McKown’s 1.20 ERA ranked fifth in Division III and he was tabbed a second-team D3baseball.com all-Central Region pick after being named a second-team all-league selection.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the bullpen and he’ll be in a similar role again this year,” Stevens said. “There’s always a time you need someone to come in and he was remarkable at it last year.”
Ryan Dusil, a junior left-hander, made strides with 4-2 record and 3.40 ERA in 42.1 innings.
“He did a great job starting for us last year and we look forward to him throwing more innings this year,” Stevens said.
Freshman righty Ryan Deuel from Truro, Iowa, is also pushing for a spot.
“Ryan had a good fall and we see him being a spot starter and also a guy out of the bullpen,” Stevens said. “He has a world of potential.”
Matt Schissel, a freshman from Rock Island, Ill., will also get a look.
“He’s in a similar situation and has shown good things this year,” Stevens said. “Hopefully he’ll continue to develop.”
James Longo, a junior transfer from Harris-Stowe State (Mo.), adds experience to the rotation and freshman Mark Schroeder of Chariton and sophomores Mark Gilloffo and Andy Carr add depth.
Central enters the Iowa Conference with a challenge that no league school has accomplished in eight years: winning back-to-back outright titles.
“Every year someone emerges that is kind of a surprise,” Stevens said. “The league is so balanced it’s unfair to say who the top teams are, but repeating as conference champions is definitely a goal for us.”
New to the league is the four-game series of one seven-inning game and one nine-inning game on back-to-back dates. Previously the conference played two seven-inning games and one nine-inning game.
“The change will really test each team’s pitching depth, and teams with the most will be in a better position,” Stevens said. “We feel good about our depth right now and hopefully that continues.”
A demanding preseason slate will prepare the Dutch for conference rigors. Central opens March 7 against Illinois College at Fort Myers, Fla. Central also faces NCAA Div. III tourney contenders Webster (Mo.), which is ranked ninth in the preseason poll, and St. Norbert (Wis.) on the spring break trip, as well as Rhodes (Tenn.), Benedictine (Ill.), and Heidelberg (Ohio), schools that each posted at least 27 wins last year.
“We purposefully wanted to play the best teams we can to get ready for the grind of conference,” Stevens said.
The Dutch also have their eyes on the national stage.
“The next step is getting to the NCAA tourney for the first time ever,” Stevens said. “But right now our focus is on the process of getting better as a team every day.”