NEW HAMPTON — Noah Hopp and Carter Stochl were just having fun on the baseball diamond with their friends.
A traveling team their dads, Lynn Hopp and Richard Stochl, have coached since fourth grade went on to become a foundation for perhaps the most successful era in New Hampton baseball history.
Noah and Carter are among the leaders within a class of six seniors that has seen the Chickasaws win their first Northeast Iowa Conference title since 1972 and follow that effort up by defending the league crown last season.
Hopp, a constant threat in the middle of his team’s lineup, is on pace to become one of three players to earn four-time all-conference honors. Stochl, a reliable third-year starter at shortstop, is also the ace of a deep pitching rotation for a New Hampton ballclub that entered the week 16-1 with a No. 2 ranking in Class 2A.
“Both of their dads were really active with our youth program,” New Hampton head coach Cory McDonald said. “They did a great job with not just those two, but the whole team for many years. ... I’ve been getting a lot of really good baseball players as a result of those two guys.”
Noah had three older brothers go through the New Hampton program, while Carter is the middle child in his baseball family. Among the memories from a youth team that clicked from the start was a trip to Minnesota where they received rings for winning a state championship.
“We played 50, 60 games a summer and on weekends we’d go to overnight tournaments and have a good time,” Carter Stochl said. “We just enjoyed hanging out with our friends and at the same time practicing baseball.
“My dad and his (Noah’s) dad did a great job of teaching us the fundamentals, the things we needed to do to become good baseball players and a good team. What we did then has been paying dividends.”
Everyone on the team learned to pitch, something that has paid off with new rules limiting pitch count this season.
“We never had worried about our stats or any of that stuff,” Hopp added. “It’s just one game where we can go out, have fun, play together and make memories.”
The numbers Hopp and Stochl have compiled throughout their careers have certainly been eye-opening. Hopp has 131 career RBIs and is batting .491 this season with seven extra-base hits after hitting .424 and driving in 45 runs on last year’s 29-5 team.
“It’s pretty easy to drive in runs and do all that good stuff when the people in front of me are getting on,” Hopp said modestly.
Stochl owns a 13-1 record over the past three seasons and has a 0.67 ERA through the first 21 innings of this season.
“If I can control my fastball and offspeed pitches and throw strikes, I know my defense is going to make plays behind me,” Stochl added. “I just keep the tempo of the game up by throwing strikes and keeping us in a good rhythm.”
They’ve also followed in their fathers’ footsteps as valuable leaders.
“What’s really neat about Noah and Carter and the other seniors is not only do they lead by example, but they are very good leading with their words as well and holding people accountable,” McDonald said. “They’re able to do it in a very positive way because they’ve had success and have been playing for us for so long their teammates respond to them.”
McDonald describes Hopp as an athlete with strong character prioritizing faith and family above all else. Stochl is a resilient competitor who will do whatever it takes to win.
They’ve found success in multiple sports. Hopp and multiple members of this year’s baseball team were part of a dual wrestling state championship team this past winter. Stochl, a UNI golf recruit, recently won an individual state title in golf.
“I think it’s vital as a high school athlete,” Stochl said. “If you compete in one thing it gives you that competitive background so you can excel in other athletics. Whether it’s wrestling, football and golf, all these things are preparing us for this baseball season.”
An upset loss following a 29-win campaign a year ago has this group not only determined to break through to state — they want to win their final game.
“We’ve kind of changed our mindset saying, ‘We’re going to make it, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to win the whole dang thing,’” related Hopp, who plans to study meteorology at Iowa State. “It’s the next step in believing that it’s actually going to happen.”
Stochl agreed that type of confidence and determination to demonstrate excellence is the way this team has tried to build on recent success.
In many ways, last season hasn’t ended. This group has unfinished business.
“That’s what we want and that’s why we’ve put in the work,” Stochl said of a state title. “Not only would it be fun to do it for the baseball program, but it would be a heck of a lot of fun to do it with my friends.”