Playing for the love of the game might not have been the focus of the Maquoketa Valley baseball team when the season started, but at times it sure had that feel as the Wildcats were 12-16 for the year. They finished 12-14 in the Tri-Rivers Conference, was good enough for eighth place in the 14-team league.
The Wildcats were a very young baseball team with 12 of their 16 players being sophomores (six), freshmen (four) and eighth-graders (two).
“We’re young. We’re in the learning as we go stage of this,” said Eric Conner, head coach of the Wildcats. “We know that we’re going to make some mistakes, but our offense has to do a better job of putting the bat on the ball and guys need to work on their defensive skills so they can make plays to help out their pitcher when they can.”
During the season, Conner was pleased with the coachability of his team and how hard they worked on moving the runner up a base as they tried to manufacture runs whenever they could.
The young pitching staff also improved as they worked on getting more pitches into the strike zone forcing the batter to earn their way on base. Two young arms who developed were sophomores Parker Sternhagen and Andrew Holtz. Sternhagen, a crafty lefthander, emerged as the ace of the staff going 7-2 with an ERA of 3.06 and struck out 50 while pitching 50 1/3 innings. Holtz was 2-3 striking out 30 in 27 1/3 innings.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats have to say good-bye to three vital members of their team. Norm Wilson, Jon Siebert and Blake Becker are all seniors and meant a lot to this program. Wilson was a five-year starter and led the team this year with a .493 batting average and 10 doubles. Siebert and Becker finally became starters this season and made the most of their opportunity. Siebert had 23 hits, scored 16 runs and was second in RBIs with 19. He also was 2-3 on the mound with an ERA of 4.33. Becker finished the season with the team’s hottest bat. He had 24 hits with an average of .393 and was the team leader in RBIs with 20 and home runs with two, both of them coming in his final regular-season home game.