Superior Telegram 2010 All-Area Baseball Team
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
It was a senior-dominated season in local baseball. For all but the Superior Spartans, the senior athletes on the high school baseball diamonds took control.
The Northwestern Tigers returned a strong core of veterans, led by a group of four-year starters. In Solon Springs, senior captains Tyler LaRose and Nick Grubbe mentored their younger teammates, who promise to raise Eagles baseball to a higher level. The Northwood Evergreens likewise looked to their elder players to guide the next wave of talented underclassman.
Superior also had senior leadership this season, but for the most part, the team was led by a group of nine juniors. With all of those juniors expected to return next year, Superior is in line to join the ranks of senior-dominated teams in 2011.
Joining Donnie Hissa on this year’s Superior Telegram All-Area Baseball team are five seniors and five juniors.
Also nominated for this year’s Superior Telegram All-Area Baseball team were: sophomores Josh Taylor and Kevin Zamzow, senior LaRose and freshman Tyler Long of Solon Springs; sophomore Mike Meyer and junior Brad Ross of Northwood; and junior TJ Polkoski of Northwestern.
Tim Follis - Northwestern
Four years ago, the Northwestern High School varsity baseball team was one of the youngest and least experienced in the Heart O’ North Conference. Nine of the 13 players on the roster were freshmen or sophomores.
Tim Follis was one of the freshmen on that young 2007 squad.
“Tim Follis has been a four-year starter and has the ability to play all the positions on the field,” said Steve Lahti, Northwestern High School baseball coach. “He is a good baseball player.”
In his senior year, Follis did a little bit of everything for the Tigers, playing where needed in the field and pitching when asked.
At the plate, Follis’ experience also paid off. He batted .403 this season with six doubles and two home runs. He finished with 27 hits and 27 runs for the Tigers.
Follis was named a first team HON All-Conference selection this year.
Nick Grubbe - Solon Springs
After four years starting for the Solon Springs Eagles, senior Nick Grubbe decided it was time for a change this year. So the team’s co-captain approached his coach with a request.
“Nick decided he wanted to pitch this season, his first since early in his sophomore year,” said Nate Ahlberg, Solon Springs head coach. “He went 2-1, including a four-hit loss to regional champion Mellen.”
Grubbe ended up as the Eagles’ top pitcher for the season, throwing 21 1/3 innings with a 3.94 ERA — the lowest on the team.
Grubbe also played at third base, not committing an error at that position all season, and finished the year with a .971 fielding percentage.
On offense, Grubbe was tied for second on the team in hits with 14, and his 12 runs scored led the Eagles. He drew more walks than any other team member and had an on-base percentage of .481 to go with his batting average of .341.
Ahlberg called Grubbe a great kid and a great leader. He said the senior will be missed because of his “effort and work ethic.”
Grubbe was named to the Indianhead Conference All-Conference first team this season.
Nick Lahti - Northwestern
Nick Lahti was another of this year’s Tigers who first took the field as a freshman four years ago. Like his teammate Tim Follis, Lahti benefited from his early baseball experience and developed into an adaptable player.
“Nick had to pitch for the first time since Little League this season and was very successful,” Steve Lahti said. “He is another four-year starting senior who will be missed.”
Lahti pitched 38 innings for the Tigers, picking up four wins and finishing with a 3.83 ERA. The senior utility player also showed his versatility in the field, filling many positions with ease.
At the plate, Lahti provided some power for Northwestern. He hit four doubles, three triples and two home runs with a .324 batting average.
Lahti was an honorable mention selection on this year’s HON All-Conference team.
Marty Manion - Superior
With a squad comprised mainly of juniors with limited varsity experience, the Superior High School baseball team was surrounded by questions at the start of the season. Few knew who the team leaders would be, but Marty Manion put in the time and effort to make sure he would be on the list.
“Marty was a pleasant surprise for us this spring,” said Don Dembroski, Superior head coach. “He improved a lot with his bat from this year to last.”
Manion scored 12 runs and had 18 hits for the Spartans. The junior struck out just six times in 69 plate appearances. He also added 12 RBIs as he finished with a .316 batting average and .403 on-base percentage.
One of nine juniors on the team, Manion will return for the Spartans next season, and Coach Dembroski is excited about the possibilities.
“Marty is a quiet, level-headed, go about his business kind of player,” Dembroski said. “I really think he has a lot more potential and with some extra work in the offseason could be a major contributor next spring.”
Kellen McCoshen - Superior
The Superior Spartans didn’t have many seniors on the team this year, but Kellen McCoshen did his part to represent the class of 2010.
“He was our everyday shortstop, team captain, and a reliable leader,” Dembroski said. “Kellen was a constant offensive threat.”
McCoshen led Superior in extra base hits this year, finishing with six doubles, three triples and one home run. His three triples were the most for a Spartan in one season over the last decade. McCoshen also led the team in RBIs, with 18, and on-base plus slugging percentage, 1.018.
The senior scored 17 runs and had 23 hits — both second best on the team — while batting .343 with a .451 on-base percentage. He was named the 2010 Offensive MVP for the Spartans and was named to the Lake Superior Conference first team as well.
McCoshen intends to pursue baseball at the college level at the University of Minnesota Duluth next year.
Taylor Olson - Superior
For as long as he’s been a Spartan, Taylor Olson has been a can’t-miss infielder.
“Taylor has always had a steady glove at second base,” Dembroski said. “He was once again our team Defensive MVP.”
Olson was also the team’s Defensive MVP in his sophomore year and earned the honor on the JV squad as a freshman. This season he had a .948 fielding percentage with 42 putouts and 31 assists.
What made the junior stand out this year, though, was his production at the plate.
“Taylor really improved his game offensively this year. He put in a lot of extra rounds of batting practice this spring and it paid off,” Dembroski said. “He led the team in hits, doubles and runs scored. He also had a team high, 15-game hitting streak at one point this year.”
Olson ended the season hitting safely in 19-of-22 games. In 88 plate appearances, he struck out only six times. His 27 hits this year were fourth most by a Spartan since 2000, and his 23 runs were second best. Olson also claimed third place on the SHS doubles record list with eight.
For the season, Olson batted .342 with 13 RBIs. He was named to the LSC All-Conference second team.
Sam Radzak - Northwood
The Northwood Evergreens have a long history of baseball success. The team is competitive every year, and each year, it is up to the veteran players to do what they must to keep Northwood playing at a high level.
Sam Radzak stepped up for the Evergreens this year as a senior. In Central Lakeland Conference play, he hit .560 to give Northwood a reliable threat at the plate.
On defense, Radzak kept Northwood in games from the mound.
“Sam was our top pitcher, ending with a record of 5-2 even though he was asked to pitch our toughest games,” said Brian Olson, head coach of the Evergreens.
Dylan Ramage - Superior
“Dylan was a tough competitor on the mound this year and always drew our biggest opponents,” Dembroski said. “Ironically, one of Dylan’s best performances this spring was an eight-inning no-decision pitching duel versus Ashland’s CJ Smith.”
Ramage gave up just three hits in the contest, striking out seven and walking none, but the Spartans weren’t able to give him any run support as they fell 1-0 in nine innings.
Besides facing down Ashland and one of the region’s better pitchers, Ramage also pitched against Hermantown and Duluth East. He gave Superior the shutout victory over Hermantown and beat the Greyhounds twice.
Ramage finished the season with a 4-1 record, allowing 14 earned runs against 170 batters faced. He led the team in innings pitched (40 1/3), wins (4), strikeouts (31) and ERA (2.43). The junior averaged 5.38 strikeouts per game, and his innings pitched total is the third most at SHS since 2000.
“Dylan can hit the low 80s on occasion, and with hard work this offseason should have a great senior year,” Dembroski said.
On offense, Ramage led the team in walks with 17 and batted .347 with an on-base percentage of .536. He finished the year with 17 hits, including three doubles and a triple, and had 12 RBIs.
Ramage was named Superior’s Pitching MVP for the second straight year and made the LSC All-Conference second team.
The Tigers are losing a handful of longtime senior players this season, but as long as Sam Schiff is around, Coach Lahti has no reason to panic.
“Sam Schiff is a junior who ended up with our best batting average,” Lahti said.
Clearly not intimidated by competing with his older teammates, Schiff had 31 hits for the season to lead the team with a .431 batting average. He hit five doubles and one home run while scoring 19 runs and also driving in 19 runs.
Schiff was an honorable mention selection for this year’s HON All-Conference team.
“We are looking forward to having Sam lead the Tigers next year,” Lahti said.
Nick Sitek - Superior
Nick Sitek may have missed his calling as a track star, but Coach Dembroski is happy to have the speedy junior playing baseball.
“Nick had a nice year and showed some improvement in the field and with the bat,” Dembroski said. “Nick is fast, athletic and the ball at times really jumps off his bat.”
Sitek had five stolen bases to lead Superior this year, accounting for a third of the team’s total stolen bases. He scored 17 runs for the Spartans while collecting 18 hits, including six doubles.
He also had a .321 batting average for the year with a .433 on-base percentage.
Like the other returning juniors, Dembroski expects Sitek to work hard in the offseason and foresees a very good senior year if he continues his progress.