After a 1-5 start to the 2019 baseball season, few if any outside of Scott City could have predicted the Beavers would go 12-2 in the next month. The Beavers (13-7) are not only in the midst of a 10-game winning streak to end the regular season, but have also secured their first winning season since 2012.
One of those individuals who did see the potential of Scott City’s season was head coach David Dirks, who is in the middle of his fourth season as the Beavers’ manager.
“I’ve seen some really good progression during my four years here,” Dirks said. “Last year, we were able to get seven regular season wins, which was a couple more than we had the year before. Since I've been coaching we’ve went from three, five, seven and this year we’re up to (13) wins.”
Although last year was not a winning season, the Beavers achieved something they hadn't done in a long time: win a regional game. Dirks knows that the playoff win helped carry the momentum on to this year for his team.
“We didn't even have a winning season last year, but we got a regional win and that kind of propelled us and gave us a lot of confidence entering this season, even though we’re still really young,” Dirks said.
Young is an understatement for Dirks and the Beavers, as they only have three upperclassmen on the team while the rest of the team is comprised of sophomores and freshman.
“We’ve only got one senior starter, one that comes off the bench and one junior started playing for us this year,” Dirks said.
While outnumbered by their younger classmates, the upperclassmen are pulling their weight for the Beavers. Lone junior Kevin Herman, who missed the first four games of the year, due to an injury, has been on fire since his return.
Herman was gone 3-1 in seven outings with a 1.54 ERA this season and 55 strikeouts. In the win versus the Holcomb Longhorns on Thursday, Herman had a season-high 16 strikeouts in just six innings of work. The rest of the pitching staff is also having a great year on the mound, as the Beavers have a collective 3.93 ERA and have struck out 140 batters this season.
Offensively, Herman is also helping the cause, hitting for a .419 average.
Some of Dirks’ players had already had some major experience playing for him on varsity from last year’s team.
“We started four or five freshmen last season because we wanted the young kids to buy in early last year and show them that they can be successful, which has carried over to this year,” Dirks said.
Momentum might have carried over from last year, but the Beavers young team did struggle to open up the season, starting the season 0-4 by losing their first two doubleheaders.
“We had a pretty rough start to this season,” Dirks said. “Not making excuses, but everyone was snowed out of their baseball fields for a couple of weeks to start the season and it affected us.”
That lack of practice, Dirks admits, did affect some of his more inexperienced players who didn't get the chance to play last season.
“There were a lot of nerves. We made a lot of errors and mistakes and some of that was related to lack of experience, nervousness and playing high school varsity sports for the first time,” Dirks said. “But we got that out of our system and are getting better at practice.
“Going 0-4 was kind of a setback, but we were able to dig ourselves out and ever since then we’ve been on a roll.”
And he's not wrong. Since starting the season 0-4, the Beavers have outscored their opponents 160-59.
The core of Scott City’s success this season has been their ability to get on base and then controlling the running game. The Beavers boast a .453 on base percentage, but perhaps more impressive than that is the 129 bases they have stolen this season thus far. All this has been done without a single home run being hit this season.
“We’ve got some kids who can hit with some power, but with us being so young they haven't hit as many home runs as a team probably typically would,” Dirks said. “Our baseball field is pretty big and our league parks are pretty big as well, and I think that plays into it a little bit.”
But ultimately that's not what his team can do.
“We take advantage of our good base runners and the top of our lineup has quite a bit of speed. It is something we work on at practice,” Dirks said.
Leading the way for the Beavers in stolen bases is sophomore Easton Lorg, who has beaten the catcher 31 times season. Blaine Culp, another sophomore, isn't too far behind with 21 stolen bases of his own.
Although this season has been a memorable one, Dirks is pleased with how his young team has been able to grow over the past couple of years.
“Its extremely satisfying, and not only for me but for the kids as well,” Dirks said. “We want to show them that the work you put in can pay off and just continue to build on this team. Not just from season to season but from practice to practice and game to game.”
Scott City hosts its own regional on May 13 and 15.