The five seniors on the 2009 Morris Area baseball roster will leave coach Lyle Rambow with some big cleats to fill next year.
Morris Area took fourth place in the West Central Conference South with a 9-7 record. Overall, the Tigers were 12-12.
The season ended for the Tigers with a loss to Hawley in the Section 6A tournament. In Sub-Section 6A, the Tigers were 2-1, defeating Brandon-Evansville and West Central Area, but falling to Wheaton in the championship game.
"We're losing some good seniors," said Rambow. "But we've got some experience coming back with at least five underclassmen."
Captains Darrick Henrichs and Dustin Sauter led the Tigers both on and off the field.
Sauter, the Tigers' short stop as well as a pitcher, batted .408 this season, recording 31 hits including eight doubles, one triple, and two home runs. On defense, he had 29 put outs and 43 assists. On the mound, he finished the season with a 2.66 ERA and struck out 32 batters.
"Dusty is what you call a line-drive hitter," said Rambow. "He slapped the ball to all fields.
"He really pounded the ball and pitched well, too."
Henrichs, the Tigers' starting catcher for three seasons, had a .263 batting average in 2009. He had 20 hits, including six doubles and two home runs, along with 14 RBIs and 16 runs. He was credited with 150 put outs behind home plate.
"I've never had a three-year starter at catcher before," said Rambow. "Our pitchers really improved throughout the the season and that had a lot to do with Darrick."
At the spring sports awards program, Rambow only half joked that catchers should get the wins instead of pitchers.
The other three seniors, Nate Gades, Chris Boettcher, and Jason Grasshoff, all played important roles for the team.
Nate Gades, the Tigers' lefthanded pitcher, finished the season 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA and 43 strike outs. At the plate, Gades batted .308 and had 20 hits including two doubles, one triple, and one home run. He scored seven times and had 21 RBIs.
"Nate came to me his junior year and said he wanted to pitch," said Rambow. "It's unusual for a pitcher to start that late, but he ended up being a solid pitcher for us."
Gades won the Tigers' first play-off game in both his junior and senior seasons.
Outfielder Chris Boettcher led the Tigers with a .457 batting averaging, recording 21 hits including five doubles, three triples, and three homers.
"Chris is lightning in a bottle," explained Rambow. "He was a really dynamic player for us."
Injuries shorted Boettcher's playing time this season.
"I think those injuries cost him All-Conference recognition."
Jason Grasshoff, returning to baseball as a senior, improved throughout the season.
"Jason has a good attitude and work ethic," said Rambow. "He was fun to work with."
Orange Ball Awards for outstanding plays in the field went out to Tanner Rohloff (3), Tyler Hansen (2), Eric Riley (2), Ryan Beyer, Sauter, and Boettcher.
Joining the Chizek 300 Club this year are Boettcher, Sauter, Gades, and Hansen with a .338 batting average.
As a team, the Tigers hit 13 home runs this season. Morris Area won every game in which the Tigers hit a home run, scoring at least nine runs to defeat Yellow Medicine East, Paynesville, Lac qui Parle Valley, Montevideo, and Minnewaska.
"We haven't had that many in a long time," said Rambow.
Home-run hitters were Boettcher and Beyer with three apiece, Henrichs and Sauter with two each, and Gades, Hansen, and Riley with one.
With a core group of juniors and sophomores returning next season, Rambow hopes to shore up mistakes to allow the opponents fewer runs and improve on the Tigers .500 record.