Senior excited for invite, but still focused on season after big postseason win

Anyone who watches the Gilbert baseball team on a regular basis understands fully the impact senior first baseman and pitcher Eli Eldred has had on the program. He’s the rock, that one guy the other members of the team lean on, and he just so happens to be an extremely talented player too.

Whether it’s in the field, on the mound, or at the plate, Eli makes people stand up and take notice. Opposing coaches and other coaches from around the state know all about him as well.

A four-year starter for the Tigers, Eli will get the chance to play with and against Iowa’s best of the best later this month. He’s been selected to take part in the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association’s All-Start Series in Carroll, July 27-29.

And when Eli got the invitation, you better believe he quickly accepted.

“After the ADM game at home, their coach pulled me aside and said he wanted to pick me because he thinks I’m a good ball player,” Eli said. ‘I was like, let’s do it! It’s more baseball.”

Eli is the third Gilbert player over the last decade to be invited to the all-star series, joining former Tigers Steven Lawrence and Easton Johnson.

Eli has played and started in 105 games during his career. He boasts a .347 career batting average with 3 home runs, 77 RBIs, 23 doubles, 9 triples, and 101 runs scored. On the mound, he carries a career record of 11-7 with a 2.14 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 117 2/3 innings of work.

This season, Eli is batting .333 with 11 extra-base hits, 17 RBIs, and 21 runs scored. He also holds a 4-1 record and 2.02 ERA on the bump.

Gilbert head coach Jeremy Eldred is incredibly proud of his son, not only for being selected to the all-star series, but also for the way Eli conducts himself on a daily basis.

“For me, it’s a heck of an honor to have him represent Gilbert (in the all-star series),” Jeremy said. “He’s a heck of a ball player. He’s grinded his whole life and he’s never changed. I’ve tried to slow him up on some things, but he goes through a brick wall for his teammates every single day.”

Jeremy has had a front row seat for Eli’s entire high school career. He may still have that front-row seat to watch him at the all-star series, but he’ll have to enter the stadium early to get it. Instead of being inside the fence as a coach, he’ll be in the stands as a spectator.

“It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to just watch, but it’s going to be a blast,” Jeremy said. “As a dad, I’ll never stop watching him.”

The all-star series will be fun to think about down the line, but not in the present. You see, Eli, Jeremy, and the rest of the Tigers are still focused on the season, which continues this evening with a Class 3A Substate 2 semifinal clash against Algona in Algona. Gilbert, which somehow drew the No. 7 seed in the 8-team substate, dismantled second-seeded Humboldt, 11-0 in 5 innings, in the quarterfinal round on Friday.

In a way, being seeded surprisingly low worked to Gilbert’s advantage on Friday. The players felt they had something to prove, and they delivered against a Humboldt team that won 24 games and the North Central Conference title during the regular season.

“It was a big win,” Eli said. “We shouldn’t have been the 7 seed because our conference is really good. Our record might now show it, but we can play some really good ball and that’s what we did.”

Gilbert shelled Humboldt starting pitcher Isaiah Busick for six hits and five runs in just 3 1/3 innings. Busick entered the contest with an unbeaten record on the season.

In all, the Tigers notched 10 hits, including three each from Kaden Malloy and Coal Myers. Brock Christensen and Alec Bell smacked two hits each. Eli, Alden Short, and Grant Konz all had one base knock.

Bell found the gap twice for a pair of doubles. Myers drove in a team-high three runs, while Short and Malloy both had two RBIs.

Gilbert took control early on with a run in the second inning. The Tigers added three in the third, two in the fourth, and then exploded for five in the fifth.

That was more than enough for Eli, who earned the nod on the hill. The southpaw kept Humboldt’s hitters baffled all night en route to a complete-game 4-hitter with 11 strikeouts.

“We had a game plan in place and we executed it,” Jeremy said. “We talked about getting on top of them early, particularly with a pitcher like (Busick) who’s undefeated. We knew if we could hop on him early and make them work, we’d be able to do what we do best.”