Baseball Preview: Hawks experience major shakeup with winning streak on the line

Sean Cordy
Correspondent
Woodward-Granger's Colby Tague in action during a home match-up with Carroll on Friday, May 28.

Woodward-Granger comes into 2021 as an almost entirely new program. Not only is longtime coach Eric Evans replaced by the un-retired Mike Long, the Hawks field just three players that saw consistent varsity action last season.

Playmakers

Like the 2020 state tournament basketball team, W-G was dominated by senior starters that made up the bulk of the roster for the past couple of seasons. Notably, Reese Jamison and his truckload of school records are gone, as are Alex Bice, Caden Easter, Brandon Worley and Jay Dorenkamp after ranking among the conference’s top aces. Trevor Simmons is also unavailable, forgoing his senior season.

That leaves all-state utility selection Colby Tague, Worth Henry and Brody Nardini as the only players on the team to take in at least 10 at-bats last season. Luckily, the trio made the most of their appearances last season to take over the reins. 

Tague, in particular, comes in as a dangerous weapon with a blend of power and efficiency that ranks among the top in the West Central Activities Conference. Ranked 16th in on-base rate and sixth in slugging percentage, Tague created an approximate .66 runs per game, ranked sixth among returning players.

In the same breath, Nardini had even better numbers (albeit taking in only 10 at-bats compared to Tague’s 69) and did so with raw power. His .200 isolated power index ranks only behind the Panorama’s three Taylor siblings. Adding one extra dimension, Henry ranked fourth with a combined 21 total bases and 10 steals as a junior. Henry and Nardini come in as the team’s most experienced pitchers as well. 

Woodward-Granger's Brody Nardini pitches against Carroll on Friday, May 28.

Follow the Metrics

With roughly 70 percent of the team’s run production gone and 90 percent of innings missing, the Hawks are largely a mystery as the team’s new players are also working under new management with Long. Even so, Long’s presence largely matches the Hawks’ recent identity as a team focused on quickly getting bases.

Last year, only 61 percent of the team’s total bases came from singles and ranked first in combined steals and bases. That’s surprisingly in line with Long’s last season at Perry in 2018 where the Bluejays found 60 percent of bases off singles. While stealing was down that year, Perry swiped 58 bases in 2016 and  54 in 2017, right in line with Woodward’s speed.

Streak to Know

Starting a new era with Long and a refreshed roster, the Hawks have a streak of six straight winning seasons on the line.

State of the Conference 

The West Central Activities Conference is sure to be one of the most top-heavy teams in the state once again as repeat Class 2A state champ Van Meter returns the bulk of its starting roster, as does hard-hitting Panorama with its trio of Taylors. State runner-up Des Moines Christian comes in with some major question marks without its aces returning much like Woodward, but the Lions haven’t had a losing season since 2013. While ACGC and Interstate 35 ranked in the bottom half of the conference last season, they both return over 80 percent of total production and hope to climb up the leaderboard after going through growing pains in 2020.

Worth Henry at bat for Woodward-Granger on Friday, May 28 during a home game against Carroll.