Coming off its best season in school history the Glenwood baseball team is looking at a “rebuilding” season in 2009, said coach Brett Elam.
The Rams lost nine seniors off last year's 27-10 team that placed second in the Hawkeye 10 Conference before seeing their season end at Harlan in districts.
“We come into this season with just two seniors,” said Elam. “But on the other side of it we have a big sophomore class who got a lot of experiences as freshman last season. It's not like we're throwing them into the mix without ever been in a varsity uniform. In hindsight last year was a good experience for them being able to mix with a big senior class and really get their feet wet.”
Included in the Rams' losses from last year's team are Brett Keim, Jordan Henze and Kyle Ruhr. Those three combined to drive in 96 of the Rams' 267 runs and smack 14 of the team's 23 home runs last season. Keim and Henze also combined to pitch 60 2/3 innings.
Elam knows no one player on this year's roster can replace that production or leadership.
“I wish I had the answer,” said Elam. “We've been talking about it and we lost a lot of high averages and production in the middle of the lineup and we can't replace that with just two or three people. We'll have to replace them by committee because not just one player is going to be able to carry us. We're going to have to do some things to manufacture runs.”
Which means the Rams will likely being playing more “small ball” this season and stealing more bases. Glenwood stole 90 bases a year ago but Elam would like to see that number double.
“We've got kids who have bunted more this first two weeks of practice than they did all last year,
Gone also for Glenwood is first team Hawkeye 10 Conference pitcher Brett Elliff, who went 8-2 a year ago with 65 strikeouts and minuscule 1.45 earned run average.
Elam admits he lost a lot of experienced pitchers from last season but he likes what he has coming back on the mound and the addition of two newcomers to rotation in Nick Wells, a junior transfer from Council Bluffs Lewis Central and Gage Comer, a senior from Texas. Both can pitch and play multiple positions.
The Rams top three arms are Taylor Kaufman, Josh Magnussen (3-1 with a 2.43 ERA last season), Wells and Comer. Kaufman went 7-1 as a freshman last season, striking out 78 in 45 2/3 innings with a .31 earned run average. The lefty also led the Rams with 46 RBIs and 16 doubles while hitting .409.
Elam's biggest concern is the same as it was last season: a back up catcher. Starting catching Bryan Harless, a junior, started all 35 games at catcher a year ago. Elam would like to get the junior a break behind the plate and allow him to pitch some this season.
“Bryan is our top catcher but he can pitch too,” said Elam. “Our pitching was so deep last season he didn't get to throw much but he will this year so we need a catcher. We have three guys there but two are freshman.”