North Nodaway is focused on being stronger on the baseball field this season — quite literally.
Mustang head coach Jake Shipman responded to a 2-11 season last year with an extremely young team, by making sure that his players put in the time to mature their bodies in the weight room. The Mustangs dedicate their first 30 minutes of practice every day to the weight room and Shipman hopes to see the benefits on the field.
“That is our program full-circle,” Shipman said. “That is football, basketball and baseball. I talked to with other coaches and that is something that we feel like we have lacked. … This is an area that directly impacts their abilities on the court and on the field and it shows. It shows that we need to improve on that and that is why we are devoting so much time to it.”
Coming off of last season, North Nodaway returns much of their lineup, including their three leading hitters Tyler Bix, Austin Bird and Logan Keho.
“Our guys know what the game plan is, what they should be doing and what we like to do as a program,” Shipman said. “Having that experience coming back, they know my expectations and what we need to do.”
Just the age of the team should help according to their coach after they played nearly all underclassmen last year.
“We got older, which is nice,” Shipman said.
Bix was among the most versatile Mustangs last year, but mostly split time between pitcher and catcher. He turned in one of the best seasons in the area as hitter batting .436 in 13 games. His 17 hits were nearly twice as many as his closest teammate.
Bix pitched 17 2/3 innings last season and finished with a 7.13 ERA and 29 strikeouts. He had both the team’s victories of the mound.
Bird nearly reached the .300 mark with his .292 batting average and led the team with three extra-base hits — all doubles.
Keho was the team’s primary pitcher last season and threw 25 innings with an 8.12 ERA and 23 strikeouts compared to just 15 walks. At the plate, Keho hit .273 and had the team’s lone home run on the season.
“Last year was my first year pitching so I’m just trying to get better all around,” Keho said.
The Mustang defense will again feature Arron Coleman at shortstop. The senior is the most-experienced player on the roster, Coleman is looking to bounce back after a .238 batting average last season.
“I just want to the best that I can be for the team,” Coleman said.
Coleman, also a star on the Mustangs’ basketball, is looking forward to his final season of high school sports in a North Nodaway uniform.
“It is my last year, but I am pumped to get it started,” Coleman said. “It is my last sport so I want to go out with a bang.”
Other key returners include Karson Oberhauser, Ryan Riley and Andrew Blackford, who all started last season.
“Really, we are still pretty young,” Shipman said. “Our core is still juniors and sophomores. Confidence is the biggest thing in baseball. It is a game of failures and when they realize that they are capable of making the right play and right decision, that will help us take steps to be successful.”
The Mustangs will open the season with a road trip to North Harrison on Friday in Eagleville.
“They’ve seen the bad,” Shipman said. “I kind of think it is good that they’ve seen the bad because they are ready for the good to come back.”