Hawks eager to turn a corner

Six starters back on the diamond for South Hamilton this season

SOUTH HAMILTON BASEBALL TEAM MEMBERS FOR 2024 include, front row (left to right): Thomas Wirth, Landon Sogard, Braden Young, Brody Harris, Titus Herrick, Andrew Jensen and Connor Deppe. Back: Tjerdan Johnson, Paul Lim, Prestin Van De Pol, Ryland Ubben, Owen Duns, Tyler Schachtner and Landon Greufe. (DFJ photo by Angela Hewitt)

With six returning starters and two more letterwinners back in the fold, South Hamilton head baseball coach Cole Swenson is hoping to take that next step this summer.

The Hawks went 10-13 last year, placing fifth in the Heart of Iowa Conference. They earned a postseason win before being ousted by Mason City Newman.

Seniors Owen Duns, Tjerdan Johnson, Prestin Van De Pol and Ryland Ubben are joined by juniors Landon Sogard and Braden Young as players back who started at least 17 games in 2023.

Senior Landon Greufe and sophomore Kolby Hodnefield saw action in at least 14 contests, with Greufe making five starts.

“We are looking for a couple seniors and juniors to step up and fill some open positions in the starting lineup,” Swenson said. “Strengths of this year’s team will be our defense and returning the bulk of our infield, and having two catchers behind the plate.

“We return two of our top pitchers, and look for them to lead the way and have some guys get more important innings this year.”

Duns hit .388 with 12 RBI and 11 steals last summer. Johnson recorded a .383 batting average to go along with 15 RBI, five doubles and 11 walks.

Van De Pol had a team-high 19 RBI with a home run, a triple and six doubles. Young had 13 RBI with a homer and a triple.

The offense had a season-high 21 runs in a regular-season win over Nevada and went 8-0 in games they scored at least eight runs.

Hodnefield, a state track qualifier, stole 14 bases and scored 13 runs.

“We need to get guys hitting 1-9 in our order and have everyone in our lineup to be a threat when they step in the box,” Swenson said. “We look to be aggressive on the base paths and have productive at-bats.”

On the mound, Van De Pol won four games with 33 strikeouts. Sogard had three wins and a team-leading 52 strikeouts in 43-plus innings. He also sported a 2.42 earned run average and walked just eight batters.

Young, Johnson and Ubben all pitched a year ago for South Hamilton.

Figuring out how to win the close decisions could be key to turning the season around and securing a winning mark. Last year, the Hawks went 0-5 in one-run games.

“Our goals will be to compete with the top teams of our conference and push to win the Heart of Iowa,” Swenson said. “We want to set ourselves up for the end of the year to make a run in the postseason.”

South Hamilton has won at least 10 games in five of the last seven seasons overall, including a 19-6 mark in 2021.


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