Clippers gearing up for another season on the diamond
TIFFIN– This will be the second season at the helm for coach Brent Henry and his Clear Creek Amana (CCA) varsity baseball team. In his debut year the Clippers were 13-25 overall and 9-19 for seventh-place in the WaMaC conference.
However, the numbers weren’t all bad. According to Henry, the team set the school record last year for team batting average (.285) and on base percentage (OBP, .377) since moving up to Class 3A. Also, the Clippers had the fewest offensive strikeouts in the WaMaC West.
This year Henry and company take to the diamond with eight returning starters, five of which have multiple years of varsity experience. Seniors Cody Wagner and Jacob Klingeman will lead the team. Wagner is an infielder and pitcher with a .377 average last year and the school’s on-base percentage (OBP) record (since moving to 3A) of .522. On the mound Wagner went 1-3 with a 4.42 ERA in 19 innings of work. Klingeman is an outfielder with a .266 average and .357 OBP.
Juniors Tanner Bandy, Nile Rourke and Stephen Jensen are back in the starting lineup. Bandy, an outfielder, put up a .286 average and .333 OBP, Rourke will split his time between the infield and the mound and had a .278 average last season and .344 OBP. Rourke was 2-5 with a 2.97 ERA in 37.2 innings. Jensen is back as catcher after being ranked fourth in Class 3A last year in runners caught stealing, having gunned down 16. At bat Jensen posted a .278 average and a .410 OBP.
Sophomores Jake Neubauer and Robby Swails will work as shortstop/pitcher and infielder/pitcher respectively. Neubauer batted .322 with a .382 OBP and was 2-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 30.1 innings on the mound. Swails hit .293 with a .337 OBP, was 1-2 with 17.1 innings of pitching.
Freshman Grayson Rotter, a second baseman is also in the starting lineup.
Others back in the Clipper dugout include junior Travis Bowman (infielder/pitcher) and sophomores Bryan Kalkhoff (outfielder, first baseman, pitcher) and Coltyn Schulte (pitcher).
An obstacle for the team to navigate around is the loss to graduation of A.J. Liddell, who was the team leader in hits, innings pitched and wins overall. Henry is also concerned about a lack of depth in the outfield and only having a pair of seniors to provide leadership to the young crew.
Looking at the WaMaC, Henry said, “it is always a very competitive conference, with multiple teams having a realistic shot at making the state tournament. Top-to-bottom, the WaMaC is one of the elite conferences in 3A.”
The season opens Wednesday, May 28, on the road in Washington with junior varsity (JV) and varsity games starting at 5:30 p.m. The first home game for the Clippers is set for Thursday, June 5, as Anamosa visits for a varsity doubleheader, again starting at 5:30 p.m.