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Senior class led Vikings through rollercoaster season

HOME RUN: Mason Anderson celebrates hitting a home run at Parkview Field on May 8.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The 2019 season was one of ups and downs for the Huntington North baseball team.

Despite getting out to a bit of a slow start, the Vikings finished the campaign with a 13–12 record, including a 4–3 mark in the Northeast 8 Conference (NE8), good for a share of fourth place in the conference alongside Bellmont, who Huntington North defeated 3–2 on April 30.

Among the Vikings’ various season highlights this year was the opportunity to play a game at Parkview Field in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, home of the Ft. Wayne TinCaps, as part of the Parkview Sports Medicine High School Baseball Series.

Huntington North dueled East Noble in a NE8 contest in the game, and though the Vikings fell 5–3 in the matchup, the experience was nothing short of memorable. The game produced one of the biggest highlights of Huntington North’s season when Mason Anderson belted a solo home run over the wall in left field to even the score at 3–3.

“I knew we needed to have something happen in the (sixth) inning and we needed to get the energy up,” Anderson said following the game. “I just saw it and connected with it. I didn’t know it was over until after I rounded second. I was just trying to connect with the ball and get something going for the team. I was fired up. I was completely fired up. … (To hit a home run at Parkview Field) meant a lot. (It is) probably better than any other field other than maybe the home field at our place. It means a lot to play out here and it’s a great opportunity for us. So, to be able to do that here at a place like this, it was a big deal for me. It meant a lot.”

The Vikings entered the postseason red hot, riding a four-game winning streak heading into the Sectional, which they hosted at Huntington University’s Forest Glen Park.

Huntington North cruised to an 8–2 victory in their Sectional Quarterfinal matchup with Wayne on May 22, punching their ticket in the Sectional Semifinals for a duel with South Side on May 24.

Despite the Archers entering the Semifinal contest sporting a 2–13 record according to MaxPreps, South Side proved to be better than their record indicated, jumping on the Vikings early and often to seemingly shock the hometown favorites.

After the Archers took a 6–1 lead into the bottom of the seventh, Huntington North made a frantic late comeback bid, but the effort proved to be just a bit too little, too late, as South Side survived the last-second scare to advance to the Sectional Championship with a 6–4 decision, ending the Vikings’ season short of their goal.

“Tip your hat to South Side,” said head coach Jarod Hammel following the season-ending defeat. “They came out ready to play. They played from in front (and) we struggled to play from behind. We spotted them a couple (of runs) early and we’re just not at our best when we’re in that situation. … I thought tonight, for a lot of the game, really embodied our identity: slow start this whole season but just battle and improve and stick together. When you’re facing adversity, it’s really easy for guys to start to point fingers and call people out, but we stick together as a staff and stick together as young men. Tonight, it’s unfortunate how it ended, but I think it was a real good capsulation of our season.”

Huntington North’s 2019 squad featured seven seniors, each of whom made substantial contributions to the program during their time with the Vikings.

Keegan Bartrom spent the majority of the campaign behind the dish, as junior Aidan Hosler, who was expected to serve as Huntington North’s starting catcher this season, could not play due to a knee injury, forcing the Vikings to fill the gap. Despite Bartrom’s inexperience at the position prior to the season, he excelled in the role and developed into a steady presence for the team.

Bartrom provided the Vikings with timely hitting all season long, leading Huntington North’s regular players with a .378 batting average in 74 at-bats. Bartrom drove in a team-best 29 runs and tied for the team lead with 28 hits. Bartrom also tallied team-high totals of four home runs, 53 total bases and a .716 slugging percentage. A grand slam against North Side on April 26 highlighted Bartrom’s efforts at the plate this season.

Bartrom finished second on the Vikings with 117 putouts and finished third with 42 assists. Bartrom also led the Huntington North regulars with a .988 fielding percentage, committing just two errors throughout the season. His play earned him a spot on the NE8 Second Team All-Conference list.

“There are really skilled catchers in our conference, including New Haven’s Angel DiFederico who was the First Team selection, but it made me proud to have Keegan Bartrom recognized as the runner up,” Hammel said of Bartrom’s surprising stardom behind the plate. “When you consider that this was Keegan’s first year catching, what he accomplished is even more impressive. He is a very hard worker and his story of converting positions his senior season is a great model for future Vikings.”

Bartrom also made four appearances on the mound, giving up nine hits and four total runs in six and two-third innings of work, striking out three batters in the process.

Bartrom plans to continue his academic career at Ball State University this fall to study business.

Zach Daugherty also factored heavily in Huntington North’s success this season, serving as an all-around force for the Vikings, primarily playing at shortstop.

Daugherty played in each of Huntington North’s 25 games this season, logging a .286 batting average in a team-high 84 at-bats. The Purdue commit drove in 14 runs and scored 22 more. Defensively, Daugherty recorded a team-high 51 assists while tallying 43 putouts. His play earned him the First Team Middle Infielder spot on the NE8’s All-Conference list.

“I have been to several conference votes, and this one was really unique,” Hammel said of Daugherty’s honor. “Usually the decisions hinge on offensive statistics, but when it came to Zach’s ballot, it was all about his toughness and defensive skill set. It was neat to see those trump other players who might have had a little more impressive offensive numbers. Zach is a great Viking with a bright future, and it was good to see that recognized around the league.”

Daugherty also made five appearances on the mound, accumulating a 1–1 record. Daugherty gave up six hits and four earned runs while striking out three batters in four and one-third innings of work.

Anderson completed the team’s award-winning contingent, claiming a spot on the NE8’s Second Team All-Conference list in the pitcher position.

Anderson pitched in nine games for Huntington North, racking up 41 and one-third innings of work, allowing 22 hits and 12 total runs while striking out a team-best 64 batters.

“Mason’s (earned runs average) of 1.69 is flashy, but his record of 5–3 probably cost him a First Team opportunity,” Hammel said of Anderson’s recognition. “The All-Conference team recognizes individual performers, but it is also proportional to and reflective of the team’s success. As a middle-of-the-road conference team this year, it is tough to get more than one or two First Team guys. Mason was right up near the top in the voting, and very deservingly so.”

Anderson was also a leader for the Vikings at the plate. Having started in all 25 games, Anderson accumulated a .337 batting average in 83 at-bats. He tied for the team lead with 28 hits and scored a team-best 28 runs while driving in six runs throughout the season, with arguably none more memorable than his home run at Parkview Field.

Anderson plans to continue his education this fall at one of Ball State, Huntington or Ivy Tech with the hope of majoring in film and minoring in business.

Nathan Hall also served as a steady presence for Huntington North throughout the season in a variety of ways.

As a versatile defender, Hall recorded 48 assists—the second-highest total on the team—while tallying 18 putouts. Hall registered five errors throughout the campaign en route to a .930 fielding percentage.

At the plate, Hall ranked second among regular players with a .346 batting average. Hall tallied 28 hits to tie Anderson and Bartrom for the team lead and brought in 17 runs while scoring 14 times himself.

Hall will work for American Heating and Air Conditioning, which is owned by his father, Todd.

Trey Williams also helped guide the Vikings this season in a number of ways, serving as a go-to option both on the mound and at the hot corner.

Williams racked up a .282 batting average with 18 runs batted in, which placed second on the team. Williams mashed 20 hits and scored 15 times while walking a team-high 17 times.

On the mound, Williams made a team-leading 14 appearances, accumulating a 1–3 record in the process while registering the only two saves of the year for Huntington North. Williams turned in a 3.31 earned runs average while allowing 35 hits and 28 total runs in 42 and one-third innings of work. Williams fired the second-highest strikeout total with 28 fanned batters.

Williams will attend Indiana University this fall, where he plans to study either accounting or finance.

Brett Kaylor was another steady presence on the diamond this year for the Vikings, spending the majority of his time on the mound and at first base.

At the dish, Kaylor recorded 11 hits and brought in seven runs while scoring twice.

Kaylor appeared in six games on the mound, tossing 25 and two-third innings en route to a 1–0 record. Kaylor gave up 28 hits and 22 runs while striking out 15 opposing batters.

Kaylor will attend Trine University to continue his football career as a quarterback.

Although missing the majority of the season due to injury, Levi Bennett was a valuable piece of the Huntington North lineup when healthy, particularly on the mound.

In three appearances on the mound, Bennett recorded a 2.10 earned runs average, allowing eight hits and three runs, though only two were earned. Bennett struck out a remarkable 11 batters in just six and two-third innings of work.

Bennett will stay in town to attend Huntington University this fall and play baseball.

“This group of seniors I’ve spent a lot of time with on the ballfield,” Hammel said of his departing players following the South Side loss. “I think I’ve probably thrown them over a million baseballs and they’re very special to me. They’re going to be excellent fathers, employees and husbands some day. I’m devastated to see it end for them. … (I am) just so fortunate to have coached these seniors and the people who they are. They’re awesome kids.”

The Vikings also received notable contributions from a number of other players, as Cameron Foust, Brooks Nicely, Matthew Schnepp, Nicholas Johnson, Austin Oswalt and Cam McCarver all appeared in at least 12 games this season.

Huntington North expects to return 11 players next year who saw varsity playing time throughout this season.