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Local Sports

New coach trying to re-energize Colfax-Mingo baseball

COLFAX — Success for Colfax-Mingo head coach Seth Milledge started in the lunchroom.

Shortly after being named the new coach in February, Milledge went to work. Not on the field, but in the school. He knew the team graduated nine seniors last year and numbers needed to increase. He and his younger brother Greer, who was named the assistant coach in March, started attending wrestling meets and basketball games, “just trying to be a face in the crowd and a face someone would recognize,” Milledge explained.

The pair even went to the high school’s lunch hour. That’s how they landed their starting first baseman, James Stoecker.

“They were at a table in the corner of the lunch room and I think they had a sign that said baseball or something like that,” Stoecker recalled. “They sat me down and they knew exactly where I should play, too. So they were pretty knowledgeable; that was the first thing I noticed about them. They talked to me and assured me they’d work with me, knock the rust off I guess. 

“They talked about rebuilding and they did tell me about how they’re trying to get more kids out and talked about what to do to get me back in baseball form.”

Stoecker initially stepped away from baseball after sixth grade, citing the necessary time commitment as one reason why.

Now, he’s one of four seniors on this season’s Colfax-Mingo baseball team and an example of the small success Milledge hopes will bring bigger accomplishments in the future.

“The biggest thing for us is it hasn’t been a real successful program recently and so getting that interest level back [is important],” Milledge said.

The Tigerhawks finished last season 18-19 and are 45-45 over the last three seasons combined. The first-year head coach knows fielding an above-average team would go a long way in “generating interest in the program,” which he stated is one of his main goals.

He’s also realistic about the immediate future with such a young squad.

“I would hope to be .500. I don’t know if that’s going to happen,” he said.

Of the 21 players on Colfax-Mingo’s roster, 15 are underclassmen — three sophomores, seven freshmen and five eighth graders. Four of those eighth graders played against North Polk Wednesday night in a run-rule shortened 20-0 loss.

“We’re playing a team tonight with 11 seniors [and] we have four,” Milledge said after the loss to North Polk. “We’re playing a team with eight or nine juniors and we have [two]. It’d be great to have those types of numbers with our program. Right now, that’s a difficult thing for us.

“My ultimate goal in all of this is to be competing for that Heart of Iowa conference championship, to be up there in that top three … I’m not saying we’re going to be there this year, but that’s where we’re trying to get to is competing with the North Polks ever year, the Roland-Storys, those types of programs that have been doing this for a long time and doing it well.”

Several of last year’s nine seniors were significant contributors, leaving holes to be filled by a group that is largely inexperienced.

Sophomore Colin Lourens owns the top returning batting average from a year ago at .260.

Senior Juan Gonzalez and Junior Tim Blood figure to lead the pitching staff as they’re the only two returning pitchers with notable experience on the mound.

“We’re building. We’re building from the bottom with [15] out of 21 underclassmen, and we’re happy to be here and we’re ready to work at this,” Milledge said. “It’s just going to be little steps for us this year.”

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