By Dave Pearce
For the majority of the baseball season, things went the right direction for the North Posey Viking baseball team.
“The most disappointing this for all of us associated with the program was that our performance at the plate was not what we had had,” North Posey first-year head coach Kevin Smith said. “We were able to draw seven walks and we had baserunners on base in every inning and we had some opportunities but I think we just got overanxious. That’s going to happen. Mater Dei played a nice ballgame against us and was able to win.”
In the first round of the sectional, it was defense that had kept the Perry Central Commodores at bay as the Colton Motz provided senior leadership early in the game by snagging a line drive that seemed to set the tone for the contest. From that point forward, junior Colton Martin kept the Commodores behind in the count and turned what could have been a close game into a 5-0 win for the Vikings. But all the ingredients were not there for the Vikings against Mater Dei.
But despite the Evansville team’s win over the Vikings in the tournament, the remainder of the Evansville field did not fare so well against the Vikings in the regular season as the Vikings wrapped up a successful 20-9 season, with five of those wins coming against the seven Evansville schools, one against the team that turned the tide against them in the tournament.
But this time, Mater Dei picked up three runs in the second inning and continued the timely hitting well enough not only to take the sectional crown but also the regional crown over this past weekend.
Tyler Stolz started the game and was lifted in the third inning. But with a 20-win season under his belt in his first year at the helm, Smith has high hopes for next year and the program in general.
But Smith said there are some seniors who will not be a physical part of next year’s team that should be recognized for their contributions.
“Colton Motz carried over the success he had as a quarterback on the football field and was the heartbeat and the pulse of our team throughout the year,” Smith said. “He gave us a lot of leadership and a lot of positive vibes on the field. He is just a natural leader.”
But Jared Meliff also enjoyed a very successful season for the Vikings.
“Jared ended up hitting .434 for the year and had an on-base percentage of about .568,” Smith said of his senior shortstop. “He was named to the All Pocket Athletic Conference team. He played well offensively with 38 stolen bases and that was about 200 to 300 percent more than anyone else on the conference teams throughout the season. Jared plays baseball at a very high level and was the salutatorian for us at the high school. Jared had everything we needed to have from natural ability to skills. It was just fun for me to watch Jared play and he is going to be a tough one to replace next year.” Meliff is reportedly looking at playing baseball next season at Vincennes University.
Shane Neuman, after overcoming cancer in his sophomore year, brought a “never give up” attitude to the team.
“Shane brought a lot of flexibility to the team,” Smith said. “He played third, first, and pitched for us,” Smith said. “He had a stretch there at the end of the season where he pitched 17 innings without giving up an earned run and ten of those innings were in relief. He also pitched a shut-out on senior night against Tecumseh. He also provided us with the game-winning hit against Evansville Memorial there at the end of the year. He was a quiet leader that just went out every day and done his job.”
Cody Voelker, without question, got more out of his athletic ability than any player we had this season, the coach commented.
“He swung a left-handed bat for us and a left-handed throwing arm for us and just his desire to play and to win brought something to us on the field that the coaching staff felt we needed,” Smith said. “Give Cody all the credit in the world because he took advantage of the opportunity he was given at the beginning of the season and he hit the ball well over .400 for a long stretch before finishing at .368. He was named Honorable Mention to the all Pocket Athletic Conference team. All of us are extremely pleased with what Cody gave us this year. He was a gritty player. Everything he did he did hard and aggressively and you need that.”
Another senior from this year’s team is Casey Voelker.
“Casey accepted his role as a utility player for us and caught for us two or three games there at the end of the year when Ryan Gish got hurt,” Smith said. “He played in the outfield for us and pinch-hit for us. He had a couple of hits that help us beat Tecumseh the final home game of the year. Casey was one who wanted to do what he could do for the best of the team. He led by example and I felt like I could call on him to do and he would do it successfully.”
Austin Bender rounds out the six seniors who will have to be replaced going into next year.
“Austin was a second baseman for the greater part of the year although he bounced back and forth between second and third at the beginning of the year,” Smith said. “But we as coaches felt Austin best fit the bill for us at second base.”
Smith said that after a rough spot in the season in a loss to Heritage Hills, he and Austin sat down and from that point forward, Bender was the man at second base.
“Austin was outstanding at second base,” Smith said. “His progress and his growth defensively throughout our season was second to none. I am extremely proud of Austin. He is a first-class young man. He conducted himself in a manner where we could be proud and he played the game and gave everything he had, effort-wise, in practice and was always 100 percent. He made some incredible plays for us defensively for us as the season wound down. We grew so confident as the season wound down that any ball that went in his direction was going to be played well. He also started out the season in the second spot and became a first-class lead-off hitter for us about the third week of the year. He allowed us to get a read on the pitcher and helped us put pressure on the pitcher. I just couldn’t have asked for anything more from anyone commitment-wise or pride-wise.”