Back from injury, Stoltz hopes for strong season on the diamond
Shawn Stoltz was running wild last season, mostly because that's all he could do. Relegated to being a pinch runner for much of his junior season due to an elbow injury, Stoltz made the most of his new role, stealing a team-high 23 bases (in 25 a...
Shawn Stoltz was running wild last season, mostly because that's all he could do.
Relegated to being a pinch runner for much of his junior season due to an elbow injury, Stoltz made the most of his new role, stealing a team-high 23 bases (in 25 attempts) and scored 18 runs for a Dickinson High baseball squad that ended up as the Class A state champions.
Now as a senior, he's looking forward to an increased impact on the team as it hopes to go back-to-back, but there is a lot of season still to be played. Weather permitting, the Midgets (2-0) play host to Williston for a doubleheader starting at 4:30 p.m. today at Dakota Community Bank and Trust Ballpark and Astoria Field.
"I want a bigger role than just stealing bases this year," Stoltz said at Monday's practice. "We only graduated three guys last year, so we have a good core group of guys back, but we have to progressively get better. We didn't play very well in the first game Friday (against Bismarck Legacy), so Coach told us to take it one game at a time, that's all we need to do right now - not think about May or June. We have to do the fundamental things right now."
That creed rings especially true for Stoltz.
No longer can he pitch - for fear of further straining the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow - but he can now swing the bat and play defense in the field. Getting used to such things takes time, however.
"It feels good to get back on the field. I feel like I'm helping my team out more," Stoltz said. "Stepping in the batter's box, I haven't done that in, like, a year, so it feels great to get back to that. I just have to get used to live pitching again, but I'm just adjusting to getting more comfortable."
The early returns have been favorable - in two games against the Sabers to open the season, he notched two singles, drove in four runs, drew one walk and scored three times. Oh, and he stole three bases. Those are not going away.
"First and foremost, he's a very intelligent young man in terms of nuances of the game," Midgets head coach Pete Dobitz said. "Last year, he became a leader on the bench, and he learned to really study pitchers and see what they were doing on the mound, so when he got to first base and got the opportunity to run, he knew what to do, and boom, he was gone. And as big a frame as he is (6-foot-4), he isn't slow."
That build also helped him this winter as a vital component to the Dickinson Trinity basketball team that placed fifth at the Class B state tournament. He averaged 15.6 points per game along with nine rebounds on his way to being named first team all-state, just the third Titan to earn that honor (Trevor Ernst in 1999 and Chad Glasser in 2004).
Stoltz also finished his career with 1,111 points, fourth in school history behind Glasser (1,313), Jacob Volk (1,170) and Robbie Morey (1,160).
"That's pretty good company. Those guys were all special players," said Trinity head coach Gregg Grinsteinner. "Shawn wasn't really a pure scorer like those other guys. He was a back-to-the-basket post kid for a while. His first three seasons, everything was inside."
Stoltz proved to Grinsteinner early on in his basketball career that he was worthy of a varsity spot. The coach remembers Stoltz as a freshman, skinny but still athletic enough to rebound well and change plenty of shots.
"He could play inside and rebound. He got offensive rebounds and putbacks and scored like that. He averaged 10 points as a freshman, and that's pretty decent," Grinsteinner said. "I think he really broke out when we played Grafton at Minot State over Christmas and he had 22 points and 12 or 13 rebounds going against a 6-6 all-state kid (Garek Droog). He never backed down from anybody."
Stoltz gave up football after junior high due to worsening knee problems, so fall seasons were usually dedicated to strength training and putting up shots. He eventually added some weight and transformed into a force.
"He took some beatings inside, so he had to learn how to play and adjust to the physical nature of the game. He became more durable, and after playing 16 or 18 minutes a game as a freshman, he had no problem playing 30-plus minutes as a senior," Grinsteinner said. "He wasn't the first option in everything we did until this year when he was one-two with Lucas (Jones). He ran the floor extremely well and got some stuff in transition. He played inside early on, but we moved him some to the perimeter this season. His role kept switching, and he adapted to it."
It ultimately ended with him being one of the best and most well-rounded boys basketball players Trinity has seen.
"I remember watching Morey and Volk play, and I loved watching them play. Being up there, it's a great feeling," Stoltz said. "But that's not the most important thing I'm going to take out of playing basketball for Mr. Grinsteinner. The atmosphere and the group of guys I was with, that's what I'm going to take away from it."
Stoltz's elbow injury last season prevented him from both baseball and basketball activities for a while, but he put up a solid senior season on the hardwood. Now he's hoping for a repeat performance on the baseball diamond.
"I didn't feel too great when I got that (injury) news, but it's good to be back now," Stoltz said. "The first pitch I saw, I swung and got a base hit. That's my favorite part of the game, stepping in the batter's box. Being able to do that again, that's a great feeling."
Dobitz said he was thankful he's able to pencil Stoltz on the lineup card yet again.
"He's a great hitter. He's more of a gap-to-gap hitter," Dobitz said. "He might hit some home runs, but he's a guy who can hit to the right side, hit to the left side, very disciplined, doesn't strike out a lot, puts the ball in play."
And Stoltz is a good enough athlete to play all over the field - he could see time in the outfield or at either corner infield spot. But wherever he is, he'll bring a calmness to the position, Dobitz said.
"He's so even keel all the time. I saw it in basketball when they were playing Beulah in the (Region 7) finals. I went to that game, and with the excitement of that game, here's a chance to qualify for state, and you never saw it on his face," Dobitz said. "We get into late innings and you'd never know. He's just an even keel kid. But you do see in practice especially, he's got a little extra bounce in his step because he knows he can do more than just run."