IUC baseball, softball teams get better in second seasons

IU Columbus third baseman and Columbus North grad Lexi Heafner throws to first against IU Southeast April 17 at Ceraland.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

While IU Columbus’ goal in its first year of intercollegiate baseball and softball last year was simply to exist, the objective in Year 2 was to make progress.

The Crimson Pride did make strides in 2024. The baseball team doubled its wins from five to 10, and the softball team went from five wins to 13 in its second year.

“This year was mainly about growth and establishing our culture,” softball coach Tommi Stowers said. “We had a good base that came back. We have a good base coming back again next year. The goal is to get better again next year.”

The softball team went 13-27. They won seven in a row after starting the season 1-11.

With an 11-21 record in the River States Conference, IUC missed the eight-team conference tournament by two games. The Crimson Pride had a shot going into the final day of the regular season.

“To even be considered to make the tournament as a Year 2 program is an outstanding accomplishment,” Stowers said. “I’m really looking forward to Year 3.”

Senior left fielder Gracie Holok made the second team All-RSC. Freshman infielder Izzy Johnson and senior utility player Morgan Stieneker made the third team. Stieneker played all nine positions at one time this season.

Sydney Owens was named to the RSC Champions of Character team, which honors players who best display the NAIA’s core values of respect, responsibility, integrity, servant leadership and sportsmanship. Holok, Steineker, Kaydence Brewer, Maddison Brittain, Delanie Bronner, Allison Frost, Erica Henry, Sydney Owens, Abby McDonald were named RSC Scholar Athletes for having at least a 3.25 GPA.

IUC is losing Owens, Taylor Poling and Stieneker to graduation, but has 12 incoming players committed for next year, including former Columbus North players Kirsten Danford and Peri Foust.

“It’s going to be huge missing Syd, Taylor and Mo,” Stowers said. “They were literally the first ones in our program. They helped build the program from the ground up. They’re going to be missed.”

IU Columbus’ Peyton Blinn scores a run in a baseball game against Asbury April 17 at Ceraland.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Meanwhile, the Crimson Pride baseball team went 10-40. Their team ERA dropped by two runs, and their batting average, and runs scored went up. IUC finished in among the nation’s stolen base leaders in NAIA for the second year in a row.

“I really felt like we were right there all season, and I’m really excited about the group we have coming in,” baseball coach Scott Bickel said. “We have a new name, and we got to start a new history in the same school. We’re laying the foundation.”

The Crimson Pride didn’t have anyone on the All-Conference team but did have 20 players earn the RSC Scholar Athlete Award — Aidan Hapner, Alex McComb, Austin Martin, Avery Seegers, Blake Nigg, Caleb Richards, Carson Smith, Conner Beatty, Cyrus Robinson, Darius Compton, Ethan Shipp, Jeremy Hanks, Jonathan Moreno, Jose Martinez, Lane Zohrlaut, Lucas Slager, Max Wyninger, Nolan Kihn, Tarron White and Zander Vonch. Nathan VanBibber won the Champions of Character for the conference.

Bickel also gave out a few team awards. Junior Lucas Slager won the Kido Award for best offensive player.

Sophomore Wyatt Sutton won the Fylin’ Lion Award for having the most walks, stolen bases and runs scored. Sutton also won the Fellowship Service Engagement Program (FSEP) Award after Collin Fee won it in the fall.

Sophomore Gavin Haltom won the Ironman Award for most appearances and innings pitched. North graduate Casper Clark won the Freebie Award for least free bases allowed per innings pitched. Four pitchers — juniors Clark, Drew Bradley and Jackson Gilcrest and freshman Cam Richey — tied for the Best Closer Award.

IUC is losing Alec Beatty, Connor Beatty, Fee and Max Wininger to graduation. Bickel is recruiting for next year and hopes to have 55 players for a varsity junior varsity teams.

“We want to be a .500 team or better next year,” Bickel said. “We have to be a top-six team in the conference to get into the tournament. So our goal is to be a top-six team and try to make a run at it.”