After losing his junior baseball season to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaden Kimmes caught fire in the batter's box and kept the blaze burning.
The senior posted a .500 batting average, with 29 hits, 16 RBI and an on-base and slugging percentage of 1.153. He struck out only once in 67 appearances at the plate. It's the first time in over 20 years a Spartan has batted .500 or better, coach Don Dembroski said.
And that's with coming into the season late — Kimmes played spring football for the Spartans and didn't join the baseball team until football season was complete.
Kimmes' strong performance earned him the Superior Telegram's 2021 All-Area Baseball Player of the Year honors.
So what's the secret to having such a hot bat?
"I guess all the extra reps I've done in my yard over the years have paid off," Kimmes said.
Reaching .500 "was pretty awesome," he said, especially since he didn't have the opportunity to practice as much before the season started.
As quarterback for the Spartan football team, Kimmes missed the first two weeks or so of the baseball season. Dembroski said he spoke with Kimmes about the transition from football to baseball.
The coach was concerned, not only about Kimmes, but also for other football players entering the baseball season late.
"I was worried that those guys who were missing practices were going to be further behind their peers. As coaches, we’re always trying to preach commitment to our kids and the importance of being there to our kids, but this year was so unique," Dembroski said. "It goes against the grain of what you’re used to as a coach."
Getting back into the swing of baseball wasn't tough.
"It was pretty easy, actually," Kimmes said. "I hadn’t played in a long time, but when I came back, I was hitting well, fielding well and it just felt natural."
In the field, Kimmes played a few positions in the infield, but he said first base was his favorite.
His versatility helped the team tremendously, Dembroski said.
In the dugout, Kimmes exudes calm and helps keep his teammates grounded. He doesn't get too excited when things are going well or too down on himself if things aren't working out.
"His personality is perfect for sports, especially baseball where you can fail 70% of the time and still be a great hitter," Dembroski said. "You can never tell if he’s on a hot streak or a slump because he has that calm demeanor."
The Spartans' season ended in the WIAA Division I Regional Semifinals with a 6-1 loss to River Falls. They finished with a 16-6 record.
In addition to playing football in the spring, Kimmes also played basketball over the winter. Playing so many sports has helped Kimmes become a better athlete overall, Dembroski said.
"I just think that gives him an advantage being that three sport athlete competing as much as he does. It gives him a chance to enhance his success in all sports," he said.
After a season away from the diamond, Kimmes said the highlight of his senior campaign was being with his teammates.
"They made going to practice fun and just made it enjoyable to be there the whole time," he said.
A 2021 Superior High School graduate, Kimmes plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall to study biology.
Superior Telegram All-Area Baseball Team
Experience dominates this year's Superior Telegram All-Area Baseball Team, with seven seniors and two juniors earning honors.
The seniors include Kimmes, Jonny Rhodes and Tucker Johnson, of Superior; Brennen Werner and Dylan Ronchi, of Northwestern; and Collin Krmpotich and Drake Debeir, of Northwood/Solon Springs.
Juniors Mason Stenberg, of Superior, and Kole Paulsen, of Northwestern; sophomore Cole Lahti, of Northwestern; and freshman Abe Ahlberg, of NSS, round out the team.
Superior Telegram Baseball Players of the Year
2021 — Kaden Kimmes, Sr., Superior
2019 — Justin Sedin, Sr., Northwestern
2018 — Justin Sedin, Jr., Northwestern
2017 — Justin Reinkall, Sr., Superior
2016 — Ryan Anderson, Sr., Solon Springs
2015 — Sean O’Neill, Sr., Superior
2014 — Riley Gibson, Sr., Solon Springs
2013 — Tyler Long, Sr., Solon Springs
2012 — Grant Rindal, Jr., Superior
2011 — Taylor Olson, Sr., Superior
2010 — Donnie Hissa, Sr., Northwestern
2009 — Donnie Hissa, Jr., Northwestern
2008 — Mike Swanson, Sr., Superior
2007 — Zach Sitek, Sr. Superior
2006 — Kiel Fechtelkotter, Sr. Northwestern
2005 — Kiel Fechtelkotter, Jr., Northwestern
2004 — Tony Visger, Sr., Northwood
2003 — Keith Ritsche, Sr., Superior
2002 — Greg Aker, Sr., Superior
*A Player of the Year was not named as the prep baseball season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.