Perry baseball recap: Conference shift made a difference

Sean Cordy, Correspondent
Special to the Chief
Perry players meet outside of the dugout during a game against Saydel on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Perry.

With the season in the books, it’s time to look back at what went down for the Bluejays this year.

Conference Assessment

A number of teams have seen improvements in performance thanks to the move to the Heart of Iowa this year. But with only one win to the Bluejays’ credit this year on the diamond, the baseball team’s improvements may not be as easily visible as other teams that made strides in the conference standings.

So what was life like for the Bluejays last year against a stout conference lineup that produced two state tournament teams? That looked like an average score of 15.2 runs allowed to 1.4 runs scored. This year, that ratio was brought down by a third to 9.6 to 1.9. Virtually every single metric saw the Bluejays improve. 

Their total hits in conference games increased to 4.5 per game for a 61 percent increase over last year’s performance against the RRC. And they did so with more power and precision. Total bases jumped up 76 percent in comparison. With that in mind, the 39 percent bump in runs scored was lacking considering the better scoring opportunities. Batting average this year was .204 compared to .161 but on-base percentage rose just .10 as Perry actually struck out more against its Heart of Iowa slate this year.

On the opposite end of the game, the pitching staff also significantly improved. ERA dropped from 17.30 to 7.51 and WHIP was down from 3.85 to 2.50 largely thanks to a 46 percent improvement in strikeout rate. And jitters seemed to be in check too. Hit batters dropped from 2.6 per game to just 1.2. They were more prone to hit batters in non-conference games this year compared to the opposite trend last year.

Carter Iben thows a pitch during a game against Saydel on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Perry.

Top Performances

With the team scoring more regularly and batting at a better clip than last year’s crew, naturally, there were some bigger performances than they had last year.

Leadoff hitter Carter Iben scored three times and drove in one more run against Martensdale-St Marys on a two hit performance. Last year, the most any single Bluejay scored in a single game was two runs and those both came on the same night.

Speaking of which, Gavin Hegstrom and Owen Myers both had multi-score games as well against Roland-Story and South Hamilton, respectively. 

Iben also had team’s peak from the mound this year with a six strikeout night against a conference champ Roland-Story. In 6.2 inning pitched, he gave up just two runs and allowed seven runners on base for a 0.90 WHIP. Perry would only lose 2-0 thanks to that performance that would typically end in a W.

Caden Steva also did a good job holding the Norsemen in check for nearly four innings in the first meeting with Roland. He held a 2.40 WHIP in a 5-4 loss, ranked among the top five performances by a Perry pitcher this year that played more than half a game.

Owen Myers gets set at the plate during a game against Saydel on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Perry.

Moving Forward

The team’s improvements this year were not just because of a change of a scenery. They also came in with a roster that nearly 100 percent intact, losing just one full-time starter. While next year’s team will lose the services of three seniors from this season -- Carter Iben, Caden Steva, Kaleb Lyddon -- most of the team is still available to return as two-year if not three-year starters, projecting Perry as one of the most experienced teams in the Heart of Iowa in 2023.

Sophomore Kane Killmer led the team with 10 hits, freshman Owen Myers was second with eight hits and led the team with five runs and six steals. From the mound, sophomore Kaelan Davis was second with 11 strikeouts. 

Conference Selections

Carter Iben - 2nd Team Pitcher

In five conference starts and seven appearances, Iben ranked 14th in the Heart of Iowa with 18 strikeouts and ranked 14th with a 3.00 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. 

Kane Killmer - Honorable Mention

Killmer was the team’s leading hitter among conference competition, getting on-base safely 10 times, highlighted by two doubles.

Owen Myers - Honorable Mention

Myers wasn’t far behind Killmer, logging eight hits in 14 Heart of Iowa games. That ranked third among freshmen. 

Kane Killmer gets a high-five during a game against Saydel on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Perry.