With a wealth of young players on its roster, the Park Center baseball team knew it would be using the 2017 season to learn the ins and outs of varsity baseball so it can be successful next year and beyond.
While the Pirates ended the year with a 6-16 overall record and an early exit from the Section 5AAAA tournament, head coach Nathan Johnson is pleased with how the year went for his squad.
“As a coaching staff, we felt, as we approached the end of the season, our team came together as a group,” Johnson said. “For most of the season we had 11 to 12 guys each game, once playoffs started and we had a full compliment of players the atmosphere in the dugout was amazing.
“Our team was young, so we couldn’t help but make improvements in all areas of the game: hitting, pitching, fielding and baseball IQ. We will take what we’ve learned this past season and build upon that knowledge to keep growing as a team.”
The Pirates opened the section tournament with a game against second-seeded Mounds View. Despite what appeared to be a tough matchup, Johnson felt good about his team’s chances in the contest.
“Being a member of the Northwest Suburban Conference prepares you for the section playoffs,” Johnson said. “We show up to the park knowing we are going to face a quality opponent each day.
“It’s a continual learning process because you also don’t want to take the fun, excitement and emotion out of playing. We knew the first time we played Mounds View it wasn’t a true indication of how our team is capable of playing. In our playoff game we really made them work for every out and kept battling until the final play.”
Spencer Harrington and Keller Tollefson each went 2-for-4 with one RBI and a run scored to lead the Pirate offense. Tanner Stein recorded two RBIs, and Jackson Dwyer and Sam Dixon also drove in one run each for Park Center.
Park Center’s season ended with a 7-3 loss to Irondale May 29. Mitch Maier led the Pirate offense with a 2-for-3 day with one run scored. Tollefson (2-for-3 with one RBI) and Harrington (one RBI) also helped the Pirate offense.
The end of the 2017 campaign marked the end of the Park Center careers of its seven seniors.
“They accepted the challenges put in front of them and continually showed our younger athletes how to compete on a daily basis,” Johnson said. “They are quality young men who brought a great attitude and energy every day to the classroom and field.
“Though the season didn’t end the way we wanted, we are grateful for the opportunity to have coached seven young men who will be wonderful members of our community. We wish them all the best as they move on to college and the next chapter in their life.”
With the 2017 season under its belt, Park Center will look to build off this season and work toward becoming a top Northwest Suburban Conference team in the future.
“With each new year there is always excitement and the possibilities of what a new season can bring,” Johnson said. “As a program we are always looking at ways we can improve. Our principal and athletic coordinator have been extremely supportive and encouraging. The parents who are involved with our booster club are second to none, as coaches and players they do a great job of helping us acquire equipment that helps us improve our field and skills.
“We have a program covenant of being more competitive than the previous season. With the group of players we have coming back, we will have added depth and the guys will push each other to continually improve and compete with confidence.”
Stein was Park Center’s lone representative on the All-Northwest Suburban Conference team, while Tollefson, Riley Pederson and Maier were named to the honorable mention squad.
Stein was named the Pirates’ Cy Young and Silver Slugger winner, while the Golden Glove and MVP awards went to Maier and Pederson was honored with the Pirate Pride award.
Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.