After graduating 10 seniors from the class 3A state runner-up team of 2016, the Carlisle baseball team had to rely on many new faces in 2017. Returning only a handful of letterwinners and one senior, the coaching staff expected ups and downs, but the Wildcats relied on their team motto, "1-0," to build and compete one day at a time.
The Wildcats had a busy first week of the season that included a wild 11-10 victory at Pella on opening night in a re-match of the 2016 3A state semifinal. The following night Owen Durham tossed a 7-inning no-hitter at Chariton, and Friday the Wildcats split with 4A foe, Southeast Polk.
As conference play began, the Wildcats relied on solid pitching and timely hitting to jump to a 5-0 start in the Raccoon River league. Jr. Nic McCay tossed a 7-inning no-hitter against Ballard on June 2. Carlisle's first conference loss came at the hands of Bondurant-Farrar on June 15. Three days later, the Wildcats were "10-runned" for the first time since Coach Heitmeier took over as head coach. But Coach Heitmeier is happy with how the team responded. "We learned from mistakes," Heitmeier said. "Mid-way through the season, we were still learning who we were as a team. I think this cost us a time or two during the summer, but the boys didn't let it get them down. In our 10 losses, we only had back-to-back losses twice. I think we are able to grow and improve each day."
The Wildcats battled through the conference season and emerged 12-2, earning the RRC title for the third consecutive season. With 26 wins at the end of the regular season, Carlisle earned the No. 1 seed in district play for the third consecutive year. The first round of post-season featured a battle with Warren county rival, Norwalk. McCay threw an outstanding 14-strikeout performance to help Carlisle earn a 5-1 win and advance.
The district final game pitted Bondurant-Farrar and Carlisle. The Bluejays outlasted the Wildcats in 11 innings, 6-5. Sophomore Isaiah Henrichs threw well over five innings of work and senior Jared Uhlman gave five innings of relief work.
Although the Wildcats didn't meet their ultimate goals, there were many highpoints to the season. Jr. Nate Mortimer earned First-Team All-RRC, all-district and INA All-State honors for his efforts at shortstop. Mortimer finished the season with a .492 batting average, including six home runs and 40 RBI. With 65 hits, Mortimer was third overall in the state and etched his name in the Wildcat record books as third all-time single season hits leader.
McCay was also a first-team all-conference selection, as well as all-district. The INA selected McCay as a third-team pitcher. He finished the summer with a 6-2 record. His 1.85 is 10th all-time in Carlisle history.
Juniors Dylan Berg and Max Goodhue each earned second-team all-conference and first-team all-district. Jr. Ben Rowray was also a first-team all-league selection at center field and junior Owen Durham earned secon-team honors. Henrichs received honorable mention all-conference.
Uhlman, was expected to be a key piece to the pitching rotation in the summer season. On a rare play in the second game of the season, Uhlman broke his thumb, which sidelined him for most of the month of June. "When Jared went down, it was really tough," said Heitmeier. "He worked extremely hard for our program since the day I was hired. To be the only player left from his class says so much about his character, and to have that happen to him, it just doesn't seem fair."
Towards the end of June, Uhlman was cleared to play and gave the Wildcats over 26 innings on the mound. "I'm extremely proud of him," coach added. "When he was cleared to play, he gave us everything he had."
Finishing with a 27-10 record in 2017 and bringing back a majority of the roster, the Wildcats have a lot to be excited about for 2018.
"We are happy with the experience we gained in 2017, but we know we have a lot of work to do if we want to finish at the top of the conference and play at Principal Park at the end of July. Our staff and players will treat it like we always do, one day at a time," said Heitmeier.
Most Improved: Isaiah Henrichs
Best Teammate: Braxton Hinders
Defensive MVP: Ben Rowray
Pitcher of the Year: Nic McCay
MVP: Nate Mortimer
Wildcat of the Year: Dylan Berg
Wildcat of the Year: Max Goodhue