Ryan Hodges, in fifth year as head coach of Centerville with his 73-57 career record, and the reigning Class 2A champs are back and will face a different challenge this year as they move up to Class 3A.
Centerville finished with a 27-7 record last year winning 11 of their last 12 games including a 4-3 victory over Iowa City Regina in the Class 2A title game. Centerville entered as the sixth seed and would defeat the top three seeds on their way to the championship.
The Big Reds will also look to replace last year’s impactful seniors while returning a good core of players from last year’s championship squad.
“Having a strong returning group is a huge benefit, especially this group that shows unbelievable mental toughness along with the will to compete at a high level. With the large numbers of returning players, we should be strong in all areas of the game with big game experience,” Centerville head coach Ryan Hodges said.
Centerville returns five starters that started in every game a year ago. None of them are seniors.
Junior McCain Oden returns for another year of terrorizing opposing pitchers in the middle of the Big Red lineup after hitting .414 with 33 RBIs while only striking out three times in 108 at-bats last year. The first team all-conference third baseman will also see time at shortstop and on the mound with the graduation of Tyson Belloma.
Oden didn’t see a lot of time on the mound last year after having some arm issues. He pitched 20 1/3 innings in the first 14 games of the year but would be limited to just 2/3 innings for the remaining 20 games. He finished the year with a 3-3 record while boasting a 4.33 ERA. As a freshman, Oden had a perfect 9-0 record with a 2.86 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 49 innings of work.
Junior Kolby Micetich returns behind the dish and could see some time on the mound as well after only pitching one inning last year. Micetich got his first taste of varsity action last year as a sophomore and didn’t disappoint.
Micetich struggled at the plate with his patient approach as he led the team in walks (20) and strikeouts (29) while batting .213 with 10 RBIs. His strength came behind the plate where he helped guide one of the better pitching staffs in the class last year that had a team ERA of 2.82. He will have a new challenge this year with a new rotation but Hodges expects him to step up in a bigger role offensively and on the mound.
Hodges refers to junior Kayden Kauzlarich as a rock at second base. A tough, reliable player that will come out every night and make energy plays for the Big Reds. He batted .277 last year with eight RBIs and was one of two Big Reds to walk (17) more than he struck out (13).
His cousin, sophomore Brady Kauzlarich, will be expected to take a lot of responsibility this year. Hodges calls the first team all-conference outfielder a player with great upside. He covers a lot of ground in centerfield with his speed and ability to read the ball off the bat. As a freshman, he batted .381 with 16 RBIs and was second in the conference with 30 stolen bases. Look for him to set the table and bat leadoff this year with the graduation of Tiger Terpstra.
Brady Kauzlarich will also be relied upon on the mound with the graduation of Centerville’s top two pitchers. He had 15 appearances (five starts) a year ago, posting a 3-0 record with a 3.75 ERA and 28 strikeouts against six walks in 28 innings. The lefty will step into the rotation and get a lot of innings this year.
Fellow sophomore Merrick Mathews could be in line for a breakout season. He will likely join Brady Kauzlarich in the rotation after seeing valuable innings last year. Mathews had 13 appearances (six starts) while boasting a 4-1 record with a 3.80 ERA and 22 strikeouts against seven walks in 35 innings.
A versatile player, Mathews has seen time in the outfield and first base but will likely play the latter this season. He has put the work in and noticeably put on some strength that should help him improve on his .247 batting average.
After suffering a torn ACL during his freshman year of football, Myles Clawson came back late in the baseball season but would play a key run as Centerville’s DH on their way to a title. Clawson started in each of Centerville’s last 13 games while enjoying a 12-game hitting streak over that stretch.
The sophomore should see time on the mound and in the outfield. Last year nearly exclusively came out of the bullpen and would own a 2.02 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. He also owned a .320 batting average with 10 RBIs and will now have a chance to get a full season under his belt.
“I am looking forward to seeing how well we can mesh a young rotation together after losing two big pitchers last year that threw a lot of innings for us, but I know the guys will step up to the challenge,” Hodges said.
The lone senior on the team this year is Kaleb Cochran. Used mostly as a reliable pinch runner over the course of his career, Cochran should have a chance to crack the lineup this year in the outfield. Touted as a great leader that always looks for ways to contribute, Hodges hopes to send Cochran out with another special run.
Hodges also expects a couple of guys that didn’t see a lot of varsity field time to get some action this year. Sophomores Otis Williams and Kellen Johnson along with freshmen Kade Mosley and Sawyer Wardlow should have a chance to help contribute for the Big Reds.
After winning the 2A title last year, Centerville faces a new challenge this year as they move back up to 3A this year.
“Our main focus is controlling what we can and getting better each day, preparing for another successful run late in the season,” Hodges said. “We again have a young team but with a lot of experience that will help us through the tough times of a season. Our guys come out every night and work hard, prepare to be the best we can be in all areas of the game.”
Centerville adds some tough competition in the non-conference this year with additions that include Indianola (4A school, 34-4 last year), Saydel (19-11 last year) and Johnston (4A state champion in 2017, 34-6 last year). The Big Reds finished 15-3 in conference play last season, falling one game short behind Knoxville for the conference title.
“We play in a tough conference that could be won by any of the teams on any given year, which prepares us for the postseason as well,” Hodges said.
Hodges’ teams are always excellent defensively, don’t expect that to be any different this year. They return plenty of pop to lineup this year so the challenge will be seeing who the new leaders are with only one senior after Centerville has been led by their seniors stepping up late in the season the past two years.
Also keep an eye on how the young pitching staff handles a difficult schedule and increased expectations.
With the graduation of Belloma (5-2, 1.76 ERA) and Daniel Hargrave (10-1, 1.79 ERA), Centerville loses half (110 1/3 innings) of their 215 2/3 innings pitched last year. The other arms will have to eat up those productive innings for Centerville to have success again this season and get back to Des Moines.
“I’m excited to see the growth physically of this group, but see how mentally tough they are after winning a state title last season,” Hodges said. “This could be another great season and we are looking forward to every challenge.”
|5/20||@ Bondurant-Farrar||7 p.m.|
|5/22||vs Davis County||7 p.m.|
|5/24||@ Clarke (DH)||5:30 p.m.|
|5/28||vs Knoxville||7 p.m.|
|5/30||@ Carlisle||5:30 p.m.|
|5/31||@ EBF (DH)||5:30 p.m.|
|6/5||@ Albia (DH)||5:30 p.m.|
|6/7||vs Chariton||7 p.m.|
|6/10||@ Davis County (DH)||5:30 p.m.|
|6/13||@ Indianola||7 p.m.|
|6/14||vs Clarke||7 p.m.|
|6/17||@ Knoxville (DH)||5:30 p.m.|
|6/18||vs Pella||7 p.m.|
|6/20||vs EBF||7 p.m.|
|6/24||vs Mount Pleasant||7 p.m.|
|6/25||vs Fairfield||5:30 p.m.|
|6/27||vs Albia||7 p.m.|
|7/1||@ Chariton (DH)||5:30 p.m.|
|7/2||@ Van Buren||7 p.m.|
|7/8||@ Oskaloosa||7 p.m.|
|7/11||vs Johnston||7 p.m.|
|7/12||@ Ottumwa||7 p.m.|
|7/15||vs Carlisle||7 p.m.|
|7/16||@ Saydel||7 p.m.|
*DH indicates doubleheader. Times are approximate.