July 13, 2018 By Chris Varney
So today is Friday the 13th. Which Tiger baseball team will be the unluckiest in the first round of the 3A playoffs tonight? Grinnell (24-10) hosts Adel A-D-M (13-15) tonight with the first pitch scheduled at 7 pm. Coverage on 1410 KGRN and myiowainfo.com.
The Grinnell Tigers have been unlucky in the playoffs for the last five seasons. The last post-season win for GHS was 2012 against Oskaloosa. Since then, it has been five different teams that eliminated the Tigers early (Vinton Shellsburg, Pella, Clear Creek Amana, Oskaloosa, and Benton last year).
Grinnell Head Coach Tony Stenberg says that this year’s team is completely different. GHS has tremendous pitching depth, they are solid defensively so the key will be how well they hit. Their team batting average is only 4 points higher than last year (.271 to .267) and they have been shutout five times this year.
Sophomore Jake Hull has been Grinnell’s best hitter as of late, with a base knock in 10 of his last 11 games and is batting .400 (16 for 40) in that span. Hull’s batting average has shot up to .354 and leads GHS with 40 hits and has added 30 runs batted in. Junior Jayden Gibson is batting .389 with 37 hits and has the Tigers only homers (4) and leads the team in RBI’s with 32. Seniors Ethan Mitchell (.347, 0, 20) and Alex Famer (.273, 0, 7) have been reliable offensive performers as well. Grinnell will need some production from the rest of the line-up. Senior Nick Popp is only batting .168 but does have 17 RBI. Junior Blake Hollibaugh (.270, 0, 13) has been solid in the 5 spot. 8th grader Colin Gibson (.250, 0, 9) has been bothered by a back injury but is expected to be in the starting line-up tonight.
Stenberg will give the starting nod to Jayden Gibson (6-1, 0.88) who has been the ace all season. Gibson has a strong fastball but his slider is filthy and when he throws it for strikes, it is darn near unhitable. His only loss came against Indianola, going just 4 innings, allowing 5 runs but only 2 earned on 7 hits with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. Gibson has allowed just seven earned runs all season with 83 K’s in 55 2/3 innings. The 83 strikeouts rank second in Class 3A. He has hit double figures in strike outs 4 times with a season high 11 against Knoxville on June 26, a no decision. In his last 5 appearances, Gibson is 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA; he did not allow an earned run in his first four outings.
ADM is led by Junior ace Logan Crannell (2-2, 1.94), who is most likely the starting pitcher for the Tigers. Crannell is tied for 13th in strikeouts with 61 in 47 total innings. He has walked 25, 11 more than Gibson, with 9 hit batters. Crannell has had short stints this past Monday and last Friday — his last big start was July 2, going 7 full innings, allowing 3 ER on 8 hits with 1 BB and 5 K in a victory over Ballard. Crannell’s worst start was June 14 against Carlisle — the #1 seed in the substate — going 7 IP, 6 R, 5 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 5 K. Crannell had a season high 14 strikeouts in his first start against Earlham.
Offensively, ADM has struggled some just like Grinnell. They have a team batting average of .266 and Grinnell has scored more runs than ADM (185 to 142). When you dig deeper, they are very close — ADM averages 5.1 runs a game, Grinnell is at 5.4. There are four batters that are all pretty equal to lead ADM and neither stand out when compared among themselves: Senior Nick Lindgren (.333, 0, 20); Senior Dalton Hews (.318, 1, 10); Senior Nick Dufoe (.302, 1, 13) and Junior Spencer Collins (.300, 1, 15). Neither Tiger team steals a lot of bases — ADM has 68 swipes while Grinnell is at just 57. Grinnell strikes out more often but they also draw more walks.
Ultimately, the biggest key will be scoring runs which could be at a premium. That means playing good defense and taking advantage of opportunities when they come your way. Grinnell is due for some playoff luck — maybe they will get paid tonight.