2014 Telegram All-Area Baseball Team: Despite poor weather, these players shined in 2014
For the second consecutive year, baseball teams in northern Wisconsin played a shortened season due to wintery weather that lasted well into spring.
Northwestern, Northwood, Solon Springs and Superior made the best of their condensed schedules, but all four teams are looking forward to better weather and better results in 2015.
Joining Riley Gibson on this year’s Superior Telegram All-Area Baseball Team are four seniors, four juniors and one sophomore.
Also nominated were Superior junior Tyler Lehikoinen and freshman Justin Reinkall; Northwood juniors Mason Barth and Brady Vig; and Solon Springs senior Austin Khalar, junior Ryan Johnson and freshman Tommy Androsky.
The Solon Springs Eagles will lose two of their big hitters to graduation this year, but the team can count on some power next year from sophomore Ryan Anderson.
Anderson, an outfielder, led the team in doubles (6) and runs scored (19). The sophomore also tied for second on the team in hits (19) and stolen bases.
“Ryan had a solid sophomore season, and I look forward to his progress over the next two seasons,” said Nate Ahlberg, Solon Springs head coach.
Anderson finished the year batting .365 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage.
Kacey Block did a little bit of everything for Northwood this season.
The junior played infield and outfield for the Evergreens and also spent some time on the mound.
“Kacey is the heart of the baseball team,” said Northwood coach Chad Barth.
He finished the season with a .500 batting average and provided some power at the plate, belting nine doubles, two triples and one home run.
Block was named to the East Lakeland All-Conference team.
Whether chasing down fly balls and zipping a pass to a teammate, Josh Downs was reliable for the Evergreens.
“Josh Downs was our best outfielder for the past three years,” Barth said. “No errors in the past two years.”
Downs batted .433 for Northwood this season and was named to the East Lakeland All-Conference team.
“Josh is a senior and will be missed for sure,” Barth said.
In his junior year, Peyton Flanders settled in as the Spartans’ starting catcher.
“Peyton showed great improvement behind the plate from last year to this year, and I am really excited to see how good he can be next year,” said Superior coach Don Dembroski.
“Peyton was also valuable with the bat. He has the ability to go the other way, which gave us the ability to have him hit in a number of different spots in the order.”
Flanders batted .305 for the season and tied for the team lead in runs with 12.
The junior was named to the Lake Superior All-Conference second team.
“Jay was the anchor of an untested lineup this past season,” said David Crail, Northwestern head coach. “He played a consistent first base and provided strong leadership for our young team, both of which will be difficult to replace next year.”
Karich, a senior, was a clutch hitter for the Tigers. He had a .429 batting average overall, and that number rose to .467 with runners in scoring position.
Karich was an honorable mention selection for the Heart O’ North All-Conference Team.
Junior Nate Kunkel found a way to make himself stand out in a crowd this season.
“Nate just pretty much developed into one of our more reliable pitchers,” Dembroski said. “We didn’t really have an established No. 1 pitcher; in fact, we had 12 different pitchers take the hill this season. We wanted to give as many guys a chance to excel and earn more opportunities, and Nate was the guy.”
Kunkel was named the Spartans’ pitching MVP this year and led the team in a number of categories. His opponent batting average (.205) and WHIP (1.3) both led the team. He also finished first in innings with no walks and first-pitch strikes.
Kunkel’s 1.9 ERA ranked second on the team, and he was also second in total innings pitched.
“Nate’s biggest strength is his control, and we are looking forward to having him back next year,” Dembroski said.
As a team captain, Taavi Mattson was a key player for Superior this year.
The senior pitched and played infield for the Spartans, but where he will be missed most is at the plate.
“Taavi hit in the three or four spot all season and will be difficult to replace,” Dembroski said.
Mattson led Superior in most offensive categories, including batting average (.371), on-base percentage (.452), slugging percentage (.452) and total hits (23). He batted .429 with runners in scoring position and was named Superior’s MVP on offense.
“Taavi has been a mainstay on the varsity the past two years and we appreciated his dedication to the program,” Dembroski said.
Mattson was named to the LSC All-Conference first team.
Tyler Nystrom wore many hats for the Spartans in his junior season.
Over the course of the year, he played three infield positions — third base, second base and shortstop — and pitched for Superior.
“He was a jack-of-all-trades for us and made just one error the entire season,” Dembroski said. “His athleticism enabled us to play him all over the field, and every time he pitched he kept us in the game.”
In seven games, Nystrom pitched 16 2/3 innings and had a team best ERA of .840. Opponents batted just .234 against him.
“He has a great curveball, and we are excited to see what he can do next year,” Dembroski said.
Nystrom was named Superior’s MVP on defense.
Teaming with fellow senior Riley Gibson, CJ Zamzow was a leader for the Eagles this year.
In 15 games, he tied for second in hits (17), RBIs (9), batting average (.395), on-base percentage (.536) and slugging percentage (.395).
As a player, Ahlberg said, the first baseman led by word and example.
“CJ was out all last season with a wrist injury but played well in his return to action,” Ahlberg said. “He put forth a lot of extra work to become a very productive member of our team after his injury.”
Zamzow was named to the Indianhead All-Conference second team.