WRIGHT CITY - Recognition keeps rolling in for the Wright City baseball team.
The Wildcats, who nearly doubled their win total from last year (7 to 13), claimed a share of their first league title since 2013 and recorded the fourth most stolen bases in a single-season in state history (170), had five players earn All-Eastern Missouri Conference honors under first-year skipper Ryan Raterman, who was named Coach of the Year.
Senior outfielder Ian Hickman, junior infielder Blain Tuepker and freshman utilityman Kyle Johnson were first team selections. Senior pitcher Tristin Riley and senior infielder Nick Simon made the second team.
While the EMO does not award a Player of the Year, Hickman would’ve been a clear front-runner as he was one of just two players chosen unanimously by conference coaches along with Wellsville pitcher and Lindenwood signee Ben Burton.
Hickman, a Lewis and Clark Community College recruit, led Wright City in runs scored (30), walks (17) and on-base percentage (.557) as its primary leadoff hitter and center fielder. He batted .426 (26-for-61) with five doubles, one triple, one home run, seven RBIs and 32 stolen bases. The April Record Athlete of the Month recipient had nine multi-hit games, including a 3-for-3 performance with a double, two RBIs, two runs scored, two stolen bases and a walk in the Wildcats’ 10-7 victory over Warren County rival Warrenton on April 6.
“We wouldn’t have had this type of year without Ian being at the top of our lineup and scoring as many runs as he did,” Raterman said. “He also played excellent defense in center field. There’s a reason he was a unanimous first teamer and that shows what type of player he was for us.”
Tuepker, the team’s shortstop and No. 2 hitter, also led Wright City in a variety of offensive categories, including batting average, steals, RBIs and extra-base hits. He was more often than not the one bringing home Hickman.
Tuepker hit .431 (31-for-72) with eight doubles, two triples, a home run, 24 RBIs, 21 runs scored and 35 steals while being caught just once. He had nine multi-hit games with the highlight a 4-for-4 day at the dish with a double, triple, four RBIs, three steals and three runs scored in a 15-0 thrashing versus Mark Twain on April 16.
“In my eyes, Blain should have been a unanimous pick as well, but there were some seniors in our league with some pretty good numbers too,” Raterman said. “He was a power threat when he came up to bat and our guys had confidence he would come through in the clutch. I’m glad I get him for another year and that he can continue to help us build a winning culture.”
Johnson was one of several freshmen who worked their way into a healthy amount of at-bats for the Wildcats. He served time as the team’s designated hitter and had a stint in the outfield before settling in as the primary first baseman. His tall frame helped save more than a few errors, providing fielders a big throwing target.
Johnson was third in average, batting .347 (17-for-49) with three doubles, a home run and 12 RBIs, 16 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. His lone long ball was crucial in taking out co-conference champ Montgomery County, a 9-5 win on April 12.
“You have to up pretty crazy numbers to make first team all conference in any league as a freshman and Kyle did that,” Raterman said. “He helped solidify one of our corners defensively because you just can’t teach 6-foot-6. We’re really excited about having him in the program for three more years.”
Riley made contributions on the mound and at the dish. The right-handed hurler ate more innings than any other Wright City pitcher (43.2), notching a 5-3 record and a 3.85 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 16 walks. He spun a complete game on just 62 pitches in a 1-0 district opening loss versus Mexico on May 13.
He hit .322 with a double, five RBIs, 15 runs scored and nine steals, thriving as the squad’s nine-hole hitter, an underrated slot in the lineup according to Raterman.
“Tristin had some votes for the first team,” Raterman said. “His ERA hurt him a little bit, but he was a unanimous pick for the second team. He was a good senior leader who’s going to be missed, but his playing days aren’t over. He’s generated some interest from a few colleges and he’s going to throw some bullpen sessions for some teams soon.
“He can be a dual-type player in my opinion. He played all three outfield positions and embraced being my nine-hole hitter because he was able to get on base and score some runs when the lineup turned over. A lot of people think that spot in the lineup is reserved for the weakest hitter in the lineup, but that’s not the case with how I make mine. He might have been just as important as our No. 1 and 2 hitters. Also, our pitching ace it’ll be difficult to replace Tristin’s versatility.”
Simon, a senior second baseman, got hot late in the year notching back-to-back multi-hit performances in the final two games.
He drove in the second most runs on the team and swiped the third most bases, batting .333 (19-for-57) with a double, 15 RBIs, 11 runs scored and 21 stolen bases.
“Nick got a few first team votes,” Raterman said. “He came through big down the stretch which is what we needed and kind of had that clutch gene for driving guys in. He swung it well and it was nice to have someone I could write in the lineup day-in and day-out at second base.”
Raterman credited all involved with the program for his Coach of the Year award.
“I couldn’t have done it without the guys who bought in,” he said. “I walked into a great situation, wrote the lineup card and let the players play.
“I’m truly honored, especially with it being my first year. There were plenty of other coaches who could have won as well. It just shows that I need to continue to work hard and stay humble as we keep trying to earn history here at Wright City.”
Rounding out the All-EMO first team at pitcher were Wellsville senior Burton, Bowling Green senior Dylan Niemeyer and Montgomery County senior Tristan Camp. At catcher were Montgomery County senior Hyrum Bishop and Bowling Green freshman Cooper Kiel. First team infielders were Montgomery County junior Ethan Abercrombie, Elsberry senior Stephen Boedeker and Silex junior Scott Creech. First team outfielders included Montgomery County senior Collin Parrish and Bowling Green junior Kameron Worley. First team utility players were Wellsville senior Ethan Burton, Louisiana junior Remington Feldewerth, Silex junior Brian Henke, Bowling Green senior Dylan Huber, Clopton junior Dalton Strus and Van-Far senior Logan Wilson.
Second teamers included Louisiana freshman Ryan Capps, North Callaway junior Gabe Cash, Bowling Green sophomore and senior Kaden Chandler and Mavryk Comley, Silex junior Justin Havlik, Elsberry senior Garik Hill, Wellsville seniors Isaac Ussery and Cameron Huff, Clopton sophomore Justin Jennewein, Mark Twain junior Caleb Peters and Montgomery County junior Carson Parker.