Peterson is baseball MVP; five Lions voted team awards

TOP LEFT: Nic Peterson (Most Valuable, Batting champion). TOP RIGHT: Carter Bratland (Outstanding Teammate, Best Nickname). MIDDLE LEFT: Isaac Griffin (Rookie of the Year). MIDDLE RIGHT: Sam Sanness (Most Improved). LOWER LEFT: Alex Folz (Best pitcher, 3rd year). LOWER CENTER: Adin Solum (Gold Glove Award). LOWER RIGHT: Payton Leahy (Gold Glove Award)
By : 
Chad Smith

Nic Peterson was named Most Valuable Player, one of the five Spring Grove baseball player-voted 2018 team awards, and was also among three players honored with statistical awards as Spring Grove celebrated the team's most successful season since reestablishing itself as a standalone program. 

>>Peterson (Most Valuable, Batting champion)

As a junior, Peterson moved to shortstop this season after an all-league season in the outfield during the previous year. He was voted the Todd Oakes MVP honor in a tight three-way race. Peterson also received the Ted Williams Batting Champion Award with a team-high .368 batting average. 

He also led SG in runs batted in (13) and was second in both runs scored (14) and stolen bases (8). Playing at one of the busiest positions on the field, he had a strong fielding percentage of .895. 

As if that wasn’t enough, he was also All-Conference, All-Section. and received Honorable Mention All-Area.

“Nic has been a quiet, yet extremely key component to our lineup,” said Lion coach Chris Strinmoen. "Even though he is quiet, it's very obvious when he is gone. We need him around as much as we can. Nic made the move in from the outfield (to shortstop) this year because we wanted to take advantage of his consistency and his short, compact, strong throwing action. He didn’t disappoint and proved extremely valuable there.”


>>>Carter Bratland (Outstanding Teammate, Best Nickname)

The sophomore catcher took home the Ernie Banks Most Outstanding Teammate Award and the Shoeless Joe Jackson Best Nickname Award. He won the nickname award because Carter "Demar" Bratland was especially fond of his Demarini bat. 

On the field, he was also All-Conference for the second season, Academic All-Conference, All-Section and received Honorable Mention All-Area. 

Behind the plate, the sophomore catcher was terrific with the gear on, finishing the season with a superb fielding percentage of .960.

In addition to his regular catching duties, he was also the second most-used pitcher with 22 2/3 innings on the mound. He led the pitchers with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.17 (38 strikeouts, 12 walks), finishing the season with a 4-win, 1-loss pitching record.

At the plate, Bratland batted .316 with 10 RBIs. He was also highly respected as a catcher as opponents only attempted to steal 10 bases when he was behind the plate; he threw out five of them.

"This (Outstanding Teammate) award is named after Ernie Banks, one of the most charismatic players to play the game,” Strinmoen said. “When I mention baseball, it’s like a bat signal shining for this guy, and Carter comes running. 

"I’m so grateful he joined our summer coaching staff this year. His knowledge of the game and enthusiasm is above all. He is my coach on the field, and that’s exactly what you want in your catcher. 

"The improvement he made on the mound this year gave this staff an important boost as well. He's becoming recognized around the area as a tremendous weapon in the program."


>>>Alex Folz (Best Pitcher)

Folz was voted the Cy Young Best Pitcher Award winner for a third straight season while finishing with a team-best earned run average (ERA) of 1.82, even though he regularly drew pitching duty against the toughest opponents. 

He’s climbing up the career strikeout chart, currently sixth with 190.

He wasn’t too bad at the plate either. Folz led the team in runs scored (19), stolen bases (10) and shared the team lead in extra-base hits (6). He finished second on the team in batting average (.364) and is currently third on the all-time batting chart with a career batting average of .405. 

Folz was also All-Conference for a second year, Academic All-Conference, All-Section and received Honorable Mention All-Area.

Strinmoen says there’s a good reason the award goes to the top pitcher of every season. Cy Young compiled 511wins, 7,356 innings, and 815 starts - all major league records. He added that the new pitch count is probably keeping him from throwing “Alex out there for 7,000 innings also.

"He has gotten better every year, finishing with a 1.82 ERA this year with only nine earned runs given up in 35 innings, 46 strikeouts, and only 22 walks,” he added. “Teams batted .180 against him. 

"His win totals have gone down because each year we have continued to hand him our most difficult pitching assignments, and oftentimes, he doesn’t get the best run support. But he has gotten so much better. Walks are down, pitch count is down, velocity is up, and what he did against Lewiston in the Legion playoffs was the best I’ve seen him - scattered five hits, gave up one run and struck out 14 batters.”

He adds that it’s been fun to watch Alex throw the ball, and "as a community, we get to see it for one more year. Get to the ballpark and watch this guy pitch next year."


>>>Isaac Griffin (Rookie of the Year) 

The young outfielder was voted the Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie of the Year Award winner. He earned the starting position in left field as a freshman and was the only freshman letter winner. Griffin excelled in the classroom as well, winning an Academic All-Conference award.

Coach Strinmoen said, "We had an opening in the outfield this year," and Isaac “opened some eyes last summer with his defensive play. He’s another example about how you can win a varsity job by showing us what you can do over the summer.

"Cal Ripken, Jr. won a rookie award in 1982 and went on to become Major League Baseball's Iron Man, starting in 2,632 straight games. When you win Rookie of the Year for us, chances are you have a long prosperous career ahead of you."


>>>Sam Sanness (Most Improved)

The senior co-captain was voted the Lou Gehrig Most Improved Player Award winner in only his second season of high school baseball. He earned a starting position at first base where he had an excellent fielding percentage of .962. 

At the plate, Sanness was second on the team in RBIs (11), third in both batting average (.342) and extra-base hits (5). He was also an Academic All-Conference award winner while receiving Honorable Mention All-Conference and Honorable Mention All-Area.

Strinmoen said, "The guys still laugh at this, but at the start of the season, we had about five or six guys standing at first base trying to win that position. We looked at defensive play, offensive contributions and who would be ready to fill that void. We knew Sam could hit, but we weren’t sure how he would do around the bag defensively. We waited until the second game of the year, but luckily we got him in there quickly. 

"The reward he gave us offensively was tremendous. Sanness came a long way during his second-year stint with us. I’m wishing we had one more year with him, but we’re extremely lucky we had him for the time we did."

Strinmoen said baseball fans know the story of Lou Gehrig - a young player who, in 1925, stepped in for a tired Wally Pipp who needed a break. Gehrig went on to start the next 2,130 games in that spot. Strinmoen said when a player makes the improvements that Sanness made, you’re not going to leave the lineup either.



Two players were recognized for their fielding excellence with the Willie Mays Gold Glove Award - both with a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000. 

>>>Adin Solum (Gold Glove) 

The senior centerfielder and co-captain played all 15 games with no errors while posting 14 put-outs and 2 assists. 

"There’s an old saying in baseball that if you are strong up the middle defensively, you’ll give yourself a chance to win, every game,” Strinmoen said. “Adin (Solum) moved into the middle two years ago. His speed was a great asset for him in the outfield, which also showed up this year in our football run to state. His ability to judge the ball kept getting better each year, and this year, he committed zero errors.”

Solum was also Academic All-Conference.


Payton Leahy  (Gold Glove)

As a sophomore infielder, Leahy amazingly had no errors in nearly 81 innings at second base while being credited with 19 put-outs and 20 assists.

“Payton (Leahy) also joined us in the middle this year,” Strinmoen added. “Now, he doesn’t have Adin’s speed, but he seems to find himself in the right position all the time. He made some tremendous plays this summer during Legion ball and 16-U. But, while playing one of the more difficult positions on the field, he also had zero errors this spring."



Earning their third varsity letters were senior Adin Solum, juniors Noah Elton, Alex Folz and Nic Peterson along with sophomores Chandler Bergrud and Carter Bratland. 

Sophomore Kyle Hagen won his second varsity letter. Seniors Austin Patterson and Sam Sanness plus sophomores Payton Leahy and Caleb Nerstad all won their first varsity letters as did freshman Isaac Griffin.



Five Lions earned Academic All-Conference recognition for a GPA of 3.4 or above during the third academic quarter. The award winners are seniors Sam Sanness and Adin Solum plus junior Alex Folz along with sophomore Carter Bratland and freshman Isaac Griffin.



Spring Grove won 15 and lost 10, the best record since re-establishing a stand-alone program three years ago. They also moved up one place to runner-up in the conference race with a 9-3 SEC mark and received the No. 4 seed in the sub-section tournament.