Bratland is Most Valuable among five Lions honored


ABOVE LEFT: Carter Bratland (Most Valuable, Best Teammate, Best Pitcher). ABOVE RIGHT: Chandler Bergrud, (Most Improved, Batting Champion). LOWER LEFT: Caleb Nerstad (Rookie of the Year). LOWER MIDDLE: Noah Elton (co-Gold Glove Award). LOWER RIGHT: Isaac Griffin (co-Gold Glove Award)
By: 
S. Lee Epps

Carter Bratland was voted three awards by his 2019 Spring Grove baseball teammates, including the Todd Oakes Most Valuable Player Award,and for the second straight season, the Ernie Banks Outstanding Teammate Award. Bratland also received the most votes for the Cy Young Best Pitcher Award.

Chandler Bergrud, another junior, was the choice as the Lou Gehrig Most Improved Playerand also won the statistical Ted Williams Batting Champion Award.

Junior Caleb Nerstad was voted the Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie of the Year

The one honor determined by the head coach, the Willie Mays Gold Glove Award, was shared by senior Noah Elton and sophomore Isaac Griffin.

The 16 wins were the most in program history, including a record-breaking 7-0 start. A later seven-game winning streak led to the first playoff win since 2008 and the sub-section championship - the first postseason crown in 40 years (1979). The Lions were then runners-up in the four-team section tournament.

The team's season 1.99 earned run average is the best in the record book since that statistic was first included in 1988.

The team batting average dipped a bit after facing the toughest pitchers during the playoffs, but it ended at .289 - a distinct improvement over last year's .255. 

Academics, too

The Lions also distinguished themselves in the classroom with a state Silver Award for teams with a GPA from 3.50 through 3.74, one of only 10 Class A teams to receive an academic team award.

Alex Folz was Academic All-State, denoting a senior letter winner with at least a 3.5 GPA cumulative through all four years of high school.

Folz was joined by Bratland and Griffin as Academic All-Conference, recognizing at least a 3.4 GPA during the academic quarter of baseball season.

Bratland (MVP, Teammate, Pitcher)

"When your teammates vote you as the most important player on our team and the most outstanding teammate to be around, you have to be a pretty special player," said head coach Chris Strinmoen. "Those don’t always go hand-in-hand, but when it does, it sure makes coaching easy. Because you have a guy that knows what it takes to be outstanding and has the command and respect of the whole team.

"We are lucky to have this guy as our leader next year. He’s so good at what he does, that college coaches can’t decide if they want him to pitch or catch or do both.”

Previously honored as one of only three Class A players on the Post Bulletin 20-player All-Area Team, Bratland has been a three-time All-Sectionand All-Conferenceselection. 

After first lettering as an eighth grader, he first earned a starting position as a freshman in 2017 when he was voted the "Rookie of the Year."

In 2019, he was the most-active pitcher - on the mound for about one third of the time while leading the Lions in wins (7-3) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.88). That is nearly four times as many strikeouts (97) as walks (25). Only three previous Spring Grove pitchers have won more than seven games in a single season. (The current head coach holds the record with nine wins in 1996.)

Bratland's 97 strikeouts is the fifth best single season in the Lion record book and lifted him to third place on the career chart with 218 strikeouts. He is tied for fifth with 15 career pitching wins.

His team-high 20 runs batted in ranks the 11th best single season for Spring Grove batters.

Bratland batted .325 with seven doubles and one of the Lions' five home runs.

Bergrud (MIP, Batting Champion)

The versatile All-Conferenceand All-Sectionswitch hitter earned his teammates' votes for Most Improved by batting a team-best .378 after the previous season's .139. Bergrud went from 7 RBIs last year to 18 this spring. 

His batting average of .378 made him this year’s batting champion. He also led Spring Grove in home runs (2), triples (4) and doubles (8). That 14 extra-base-hit total is the second-best season in the record book.

Strinmoen noted that Bergrud opened "the eyes of scouts and coaches. He generated a ton of power this year, and surprised opponents when he showed he could hit from both sides (right-handed or left-handed). I can’t wait to see what he is capable of next year. Again I hope to have him completely healthy next year."

Nerstad (Rookie)

This award recognizes outstanding production by someone who wasn’t a regular starter the previous season and didn’t have a high amount of at-bats or innings in the field.

The junior relief pitcher posted a 1.18 earned run average, the 10th best single season in the record book. The two-year letter winner was very capable at every infield position, but he was extremely valuable as the primary reliever.

In addition to the team-best ERA, Nerstad had the team's second best strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.63) while fanning 21 batters and walking only eight during 23 and two-thirds innings. 

Opponents batted only a paltry .165 while he was on the mound. Nerstad had a 2-0 win-loss record.

At the plate, he batted .273 with 13 runs batted in while scoring 10 times himself.

"Caleb had a break-out year this year," said Strinmoen. "Unbelievable for us on the mound, and then he became a force at the plate as well. If he continues to improve heading into next year, I could see him playing college baseball if that was something he’s interested in. He can play any infield position, which gives him a ton of value to us."

Gold Glove

This award for outstanding defense was presented by the coach this year to two outfielders - Elton in right field and Griffin in center – both of whom treated fans to some dazzling, diving catches.

"A lot of times, coaches want their pitchers to generate ground balls," said Strinmoen. "We liked it when teams hit it into the air this year, because these guys caught everything. We wanted the ball hit to them. Glad to get one back, and we’ll surely miss the other.

Elton (co-Gold Glove)

Speaking about Elton, Strinmoen added, “right field tends to bring a stereotype of being the spot for your worst defensive player… But when you have two guys on the mound that can throw mid-80s (miles per hour), facing a bunch of right-handed high school hitters with slow bats, right field becomes extremely important. This guy was one of the best in the conference and section in the outfield. 

"He brought tremendous value to our lineup and great leadership. Never got the recognition that he probably deserved in baseball, but we will realize how valuable he was when he’s not out there next year."

Elton has played catcher, third base and outfield while earning four varsity letters. He graduates tied for 12th in career extra-base hits (16) and 15th in career RBIs (43).

Griffin (co-Gold Glove)

"Isaac has become one of our most dependable defensive players," said Strinmoen about the sophomore standout. "And he continues to improve at the plate. This summer we put him in the leadoff role, and he didn’t skip a beat. 

"He brings speed and knowledge of the game, which I want in that leadoff spot. We will have discussions this off-season about whether we want to keep him in the outfield or infield. … He also brings value in his ability to play multiple positions.

"One thing that’s for certain, he will be a big part of our pitching staff next year. If you didn’t get a chance to see him this summer, he did an outstanding job, including 12 innings of no walks against St. Charles during two appearances."

The coach also praised two seniors who have been cornerstones of the revived baseball program. Folzwas also the first Lion named to the coaches association's All-State Baseball Team. He was All-Sectionfor a fourth season, All-Southeast Conferencefor a third year and received Honorable Mention All-Areafor a third time. Folz was the Spring Grove MVPin both 2016 and 2017, the first two seasons back as a stand-alone program.

His team-best 20 stolen-base-total this spring is tied for the second-best single season in the record book.  He also led the 2019 Lions in runs scored (27).

Having played almost every position on the field, Folz currently ranks second in both career extra-base hits (33) and career pitching strikeouts (246). He ranks fourth in career stolen bases (41). He is tied for fifth in career RBIs (54) and tied with Bratland for fifth-most career pitching wins (15). 

Folz had the team's second best batting average this year (.338) and owns the sixth best career batting average (.383).

The coach also commended senior four-year letter winner Nic Petersonas one of the cornerstones of the program. "Little freshman playing left field, made the difficult transition to short stop." As a senior, he received Honorable Mention All-Conference while batting .333 with 15 runs batted in. 

Peterson stole 15 bases this season, tied for the eighth-best single season on record. He graduates 10th in career steals (32) and 10th in career RBIs (50). His career batting average of .344 is the 17th best all-time.

As a junior in the previous 2018 season, Peterson was both All-Conferenceand the Lions' MVPand batting champion. He was All-Sectionin both 2017 and 2018. 

Gabe Prahl, another senior, “has been the ultimate teammate,” said Strinmoen. “Lots of hard work and dedication, innings were minimal, but hopefully the memories were maxed out.

“I enjoyed seeing him get a walk-off victory hit in a JV game this spring. Not many kids can say that happened to them in their career. He’s always been so respectful and a joy to be around.”

Letter winners

Receiving their fourth varsity letters were Peterson, Bergrud, Folz, Elton and Bratland. Junior Kyle Hagen is a three-year letter winner while second letters were earned by juniors Payton Leahy and Nerstad along with sophomore Griffin.

First-year letter winners were Prahl and sophomore Caden Grinde.

LION LEADERS 2019

BATTING AVERAGE

Chandler Bergrud .378

Alex Folz .338

Nic Peterson .333

Carter Bratland .325

Noah Elton .296

Caden Grinde .283

Isaac Griffin .281

RUNS BATTED IN

Carter Bratland 20

Chandler Bergrud 18

Noah Elton 15

Nic Peterson 15

Alex Folz 15

Caleb Nerstad 13

EXTRA-BASE HITS

Chandler Bergrud 14

Alex Folz 10

Carter Bratland 8

Noah Elton 7

STOLEN BASES

Alex Folz 20

Nic Peterson 15

Noah Elton 11

Isaac Griffin 7

Chandler Bergrud 7

Caleb Nerstad 6

Carter Bratland 6

Caden Grinde 5

RUNS SCORED

Alex Folz 27

Noah Elton 22

Chandler Bergrud 20

Nic Peterson 18

Carter Bratland 15

Caden Grinde 11

Payton Leahy 10

Caleb Nerstad 10

Isaac Griffin 10

PITCHING EARNED RUN AVERAGE

Caleb Nerstad 1.183

Carter Bratland 1.355

Alex Folz 1.721

Chandler Bergrud 1.909

Isaac Griffin 3.150

Payton Leahy 3.818

PITCHING STRIKEOUT to WALK RATIO

Carter Bratland 3.88 (97/25)

Caleb Nerstad 2.63 (21/8)

Isaac Griffin 2.25 (9/4)

Alex Folz 2.00 (56/28)

Chandler Bergrud 1.63 (13/8)

PITCHING WINS-LOSSES

Carter Bratland 7-3

Alex Folz 4-2

Caleb Nerstad 2-0

Chandler Bergrud 1-0

Isaac Griffin 1-1

Nic Peterson 1-2

Payton Leahy 0-0

Caden Grinde 0-0

 

 

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