If you couldn’t find St. Albert’s Ethan Bernard, chances are he was at his local fishing hole or out hunting with his buddies.
His enthusiasm for the outdoors helped him as a baseball player, particularly the fishing.
“Baseball isn’t just go-go-go all the time,’’ he said. “You’ve got a lot of time in between the pitch. You’ve got to plan on what pitch you’re throwing. That’s kind of like fishing. You’ve got to be patient and wait for the right moment.’’
Bernard had plenty of right moments in 2019. The senior blossomed into the Falcons’ unquestioned ace and pieced together another terrific season at the plate. His efforts make him The Daily Nonpareil’s choice as its Council Bluffs Baseball Player of the Year.
On the mound, Bernard went 9-2 with a 1.40 ERA in 65 innings, striking out 64 and walking just 11. He won three more games than any other city pitcher. Bernard learned to pitch effectively inside, and when he was clicking he upped his tempo to place hitters on their heels.
“I really just started to trust my coaches, and I really found my accuracy this year,’’ he said. “I think that’s what helped me the most. I just tried to compete whenever I got the ball.’’
St. Albert was planning to pair Bernard with sophomore Isaac Sherrill to give the team a potent 1-2 combo. But after two promising outings, Sherrill was shut down due to arm trouble. The Falcons leaned on Bernard even more as the season wore on. He started all four postseason games, going 3-1 and losing a 4-3 heartbreaker to Martensdale-St. Marys in the 1-A substate final.
“Ethan was up to the challenge and said he’d do whatever,’’ St. Albert coach Duncan Patterson said. “He threw more innings than I was hoping, but we kept his pitch counts down and physically he was ready for it.’’
Bernard planned to be at least a three-sport athlete at St. Albert, but after suffering concussions as an eighth-grade football player and again as a freshman, he was forced to walk away from the sport.
“It was tough on me,’’ he said. “I loved playing with all my buddies. Especially this year, being a senior, seeing them all out there.’’
He put all of that energy into track and baseball. As a junior, he figured heavily into the Falcons’ 1-A state team track championship, running on the winning 800-meter relay and placing fourth in the 110 high hurdles, along with a fifth in the shuttle hurdle relay. He placed second last spring in the 110 highs.
In baseball this year, he hit .365 with team highs of four homers, 39 RBIs and 28 stolen bases. He also played a terrific center field.
Patterson said the staff tweaked his swing to allow him to make more consistent contact. He cut his strikeouts from 27 as a junior to 13 as a senior. Starting for 3½ years, he finished with 89 RBIs and 92 stolen bases.
“He covered a lot of ground in center, especially in the bigger parks,’’ Patterson said. “He ran down a lot of balls.’’
On June 15, Bernard came to the ballpark without his familiar No. 4 jersey. He couldn’t find it, so he was given No. 6. Against Le Mars that day, he smashed two home runs and finished with six RBIs.
“After that game I wasn’t looking too hard for it,’’ he said with a chuckle.
Bernard wore No. 6 “for a few weeks,’’ before eventually finding the No. 4 jersey at the bottom of his laundry basket.
Perhaps his best pitching outing came in one of his two defeats. In a 2-1 loss to Harlan on June 10, he allowed three hits and one earned run in six innings, striking out 10 and walking two.
Bernard’s athletic career might be over. He’s attending South Dakota State and planning to major in biology, with a long-range goal of being a large-animal veterinarian. There’s an outside chance he could try to walk on to the baseball team.
Either way, he’s pleased with his high school athletic career. He said he enjoyed the camaraderie with his teammates the most.
“It sure was a lot of fun,’’ he said. “I definitely learned a lot of life lessons between all of it. Just kind of how to persevere through a lot of stuff, because that’s what sports is all about.’’
C.B. Baseball Players of the Year
2019: Ethan Bernard, St. Albert
2018: Garret Reisz, St. Albert
2017: Garret Reisz, St. Albert
2016: Caleb Shudak, Lewis Central
2015: Caleb Shudak, Lewis Central
2014: Caleb Shudak, Lewis Central
2013: Jake Lewis, St. Albert
2012: Alex Crowl, Abraham Lincoln
2011: Eric Toole, Lewis Central
2010: Eric Toole, Lewis Central
2009: Eric Toole, Lewis Central
2008: Andrew Brown, St. Albert
2007: Doug Moran, St. Albert
2006: Mike Stamp, Lewis Central
2005: Justin Toole, Lewis Central
2004: Justin Toole, Lewis Central
2003: Cole Grandfield, Lewis Central
2002: Jake Hansen, Lewis Central
2001: Jake Hansen, Lewis Central
2000: Jeff Price, Lewis Central
1999: Nate Baas, St. Albert
1998: Chad Schoening, St. Albert
1997: Eric Applegate, Abraham Lincoln
1996: Eric Janecek, St. Albert
1995: Pat Malone, St. Albert
1994: Pat Malone, St. Albert
1993: Tom Giles, Thomas Jefferson
1992: Joey Nicholas, Thomas Jefferson
1991: Brett Elam, Lewis Central
1990: Jeremy Petry, St. Albert and Brent Bowman, Thomas Jefferson
1989: Brian O’Connor, St. Albert
1988: Steve Martin, St. Albert