On May 23, the Pella Dutch baseball team started their journey to another successful season under Head Coach Jesse Jablonski. They went 31-9, eclipsing the 30-win mark for the second straight year. The Dutch boasted a 15-3 record in conference leading to their second consecutive conference title. They defeated Newton and Knoxville to win their third consecutive district championship. The team qualified for state beating Oskaloosa again for their second straight year. But, their success didn’t end there.
The Dutch were the number 2 seed in the state tournament held at Principal Park in downtown Des Moines. The team was set to face 7 seeded Humboldt. The Dutch took care of business downing the wildcats 6 to 0. The Dutch were then set to square off with Carlisle, a team that they lost to the first game of the season. The Dutch started off slow, getting down 5 to 2 after the 3rd inning. They tried to make up some ground by getting runners into scoring position, but could only scratch one run across and lost 5 to 3.
“I thought we had a good chance to beat them especially with Tyler on the mound. We had faced Nic McCay (starting pitcher for Carlisle) before, and I thought we could beat him. But, they played well, and they were a good team. They came out and swung the bats well,” said junior Jaden Rolffs.
Losing in the semifinals back to back years is tough, but the Dutch had a lot of success to look back on. First, the Dutch had three 1st team All-Conference selections. Recent graduate Grant Judkins was a unanimous selection as pitcher. Senior Tyler Hillman was also a unanimous selection as a utility player (someone who can play multiple positions, pitching and a fielding position). Rolffs was selected as first-team catcher, after transferring from Pella Christian to Pella midway through the school year. Recent graduate Payton Shull was selected to second team outfield. Junior Landon Vander Leest was honorable mention at 1st base, and recent graduate Lucas Hileman was honorable mention as pitcher. The Dutch also had two 1st team All-District selections. Judkins was selected as pitcher and Hillman was selected as utility. Rolffs and Hileman were selected to the 2nd team.
Furthermore, the Dutch had two selections to the Iowa Newspaper Association 3A All-State team. Judkins was selected 1st team pitcher, and Hillman was selected as an infielder. Also, Judkins and Hillman were selected to the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association All-State team. Judkins was selected 3A captain while Hillman was selected 1st team utility. Judkins also was selected to the All-State “Super Team” gaining honors for pitching. He was also named Graphic Edge/IHSBCA Player of the Year in all classes. Earlier this summer, Judkins was also honored for being the 2015-2016 Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year. These being the highest honors given out to the best player in the state.
“Making first team all state after our great season was awesome. I worked really hard to get where I am at with my game, and it is very nice to see that hard work paying off. I had a blast with my teammates this season. This summer and the memories is something I will never forget. I look forward to doing the same thing next season and achieving our goals as a team as well,” said Hillman.
The Dutch will also be sending two players to play college baseball. Hileman will be playing at Marshalltown Community College as a pitcher. Judkins will be playing at the University of Iowa as a two-way player, pitching and infield.
“Judkins was an amazing player, and he was an even better teammate and friend. Grant has a really bright future ahead of him at Iowa, and he will do great things there. Grant was the best player in our conference and in the state once he came to Pella. His pitching and hitting ability made him that much better than anyone else in our conference and even in the state. He was a really special player,” said Hillman.
Losing 5 seniors isn’t going to be easy to replace, but the Dutch will be returning 6 starters from last year. Those returning are Hillman, Vander Leest, Rolffs, senior Caleb Piersma, and juniors Avery Van Zee and Soren Stelter. They will be returning 220 games of experience played from those players alone, not even counting the other 71 games played by the non-starters.
As the Dutch baseball team cycles to a new year, they will not forget the successful season they had and the memories made along the way.
“While the team ended their season just short of their ultimate goal, they have a lot to be proud of from this past season: earning our second straight conference title, along with back to back 30 win seasons and semi-final appearances. Anytime you can end your season at Principal Park, I think you can consider that to be a successful season. This team has continued the building trend this program has experienced over the past several years, and I know our players will continue to work hard throughout the offseason to see that trend continue,” said Jablonski.
•Caleb Piersma, email@example.com