After three straight NCMC titles, it didn’t come as a surprise that the Boonville Pirates baseball team had five players selected out of a total of 15 during the 2018 season.
While finishing 11-1 with its only loss coming on the road to the Hannibal Pirates, Boonville also made its last season in the NCMC count while moving on to the Tri-County Conference for the 2018-19 school year.
As for the first players selected all-conference, senior Jared Viertel and junior Connor Barnes were both listed as pitchers while Kole Ficken, Ethan Waibel and Dylan Watson were selected as position players.
In the final team standings in the NCMC, Hannibal and Kirksville tied for second at 8-4, followed by Marshall and Moberly in fourth place at 6-6, Mexico sixth at 2-10 and Fulton seventh at 1-11.
Boonville Pirates baseball coach Fred Smith said obviously this was one of their early season goals.
“You want to compete in the conference to win it and then with this being our last year in the NCMC we want to win three in a row and walk away with the final title there,” Smith said. “Good to accomplish that. We ran into trouble up at Hannibal but they always play us tough at their place. As for the conference as a whole, honestly it’s tough to win home and away but I thought the teams were pretty young and a little down. They will be solid next year but we’ll be in another conference with Hallsville, Blair Oaks and Southern Boone so that will be another challenge.”
Of course the numbers increased to two when it came time for the all-district selections.
Along with Viertel, Barnes, Ficken, Waibel and Watson, junior Reece Lang was also added to the list as a pitcher while senior Ben Horst was selected as a position player.
Here is what Smith had to say about each player along with their stats:
Jared Viertel, P, Sr.
Viertel is currently 10-0 with an ERA of 1.167. In 54 innings pitched, Viertel has given up only 15 runs (9 earned) on 33 hits and 14 walks while striking out 75 batters.
“Jared had a fantastic season as a sophomore and then was a little wilder in his junior year,” Smith said. “This year he came back and is currently 10-0 and had a heck of a ballgame against Lutheran St. Charles. He has done everything we have asked him to do. He will probably end up with the season strikeout record. If we get him one more win he would break  the single season record for victories on the mound.”
Connor Barnes, P, Jr.
Barnes is not far behind Viertel when it comes to wins at 5-1 overall with an ERA of 1.964. Barnes has pitched 46 1/3 innings and given up 17 runs (13 earned) on 28 hits and 11 walks while striking out 67 batters. He is also currently hitting .338 with 24 hits in 71 at bats with 16 singles, seven doubles, one home run and 20 RBIs.
“Heck of a kid,” said Smith. “Dual role kid. Pitches well for us. Probably our most consistent pitcher and then of course he hits the ball well. We moved him to the No. 2 spot and he has responded pretty well. Plays a good second base and kind of stepped up as a leader finally.”
Reece Lang, P, Jr.
Lang surpassed Barnes with wins with six after pitching in relief in the quarterfinals against Westminster Christian Academy. Although Lang has been used more of a middle man to closer, he has also started a few games for the Pirates. At 6-0 on the season with an ERA of .972, Lang has also pitched 36 innings and given up only eight runs (5 earned) on 22 hits and eight walks while striking out 47 batters.
“Reece is one of those projects,” Smith said. “He worked hard in the offseason in the weight room along with his stretching and flexibility. He’s gotten taller so he’s throwing the ball harder, but he’s got that deceptive left hander stuff. Bottom-line he is just filling the zone and attacking people. He is undefeated for the season. He just goes out there and attacks it. He is just getting it done.”
Kole Ficken, 3B, Sr.
Ficken leads the team in nine offensive categories and is tied in another for the Pirates this season.
In 25 games, Ficken is currently hitting .481 with 38 hits in 79 at-bats with 19 singles, 11 doubles, two home runs, six home runs and 42 RBIs. He also has an on-base percentage of .570 and a slugging percentage of .899.
“Kole has hit about .500 all year long,” Smith said. “He leads us with home runs and RBIs. He is also top 10 in most offensive categories. He’s a four-year starter and has been a heck of a player, obviously going on to Division II. He was the conference player of the year and got everybody’s vote.”
Ethan Waibel, SS, Sr.
Waibel moved from left field to shortstop this season and responded in a big way while hitting .354 with 28 hits in 79 at-bats with 18 singles, nine doubles, one triple and 14 RBIs. He also has a team leading 33 runs scored and 24 stolen bases.
“Ethan played left field as a junior because we wanted him in the lineup,” Smith said. “Great lead-off hitter. Had a great season, especially down the stretch this last half not only defensively but he also hit right at .400 on the season. Runs the bases well but the main thing is that he made plays when we needed him to. In the district tournament against Marshall he made 4-5 web gems that were huge plays in real close ballgames.”
Dylan Watson, C, Jr.
Watson is currently hitting .348 for the season with 23 hits in 66 at-bats with 16 singles, seven doubles and 25 RBIs. He also leads the team in walks with 26.
“Dylan is a steady catcher,” Smith said. “He was second team all-state last year as a sophomore. Offensively his numbers weren’t where he wants them to be but we let our pitcher and catcher call the game so he takes control of that. Nobody tries to run on him much. He blocks the ball well. We are still working on a few things there but the guy is a workhorse. He is getting some looks at some Division I schools. Dylan is batting in the four hole. Ficken is going to walk a lot so it puts a lot of pressure on Dylan to step up.”
Ben Horst, 1B, Sr.
Horst is currently hitting .342 with 25 hits in 73 at-bats with 17 singles, seven doubles, one home run and 22 RBIs.
“Ben is going to Columbia College and that says something,” Smith said. “He is going to go play at the next level. He is just one of those unsung heroes. He shows up and works hard and puts in his time. He pitched some for us and caught a couple of games so he’s got a little versatility to him and I appreciate that.”