6 Final Takeaways From Iowa’s High School State Baseball Tournaments in 2022

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Western Dubuque pitcher Isaac Then (8) delivers a hit during the 3A State Baseball Championship game Friday July 22, 2022 at Duane Banks Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

Now that the Iowa High School Athletic Association State Baseball Tournaments are over, let’s take a look back at some of the standout performances and next season.

Yesterday and Today for Western Dubuque

Western Dubuque won its first state baseball championship, placing second in 2006. Pitcher Isaac then played a big part in the Bobcats’ Class 3A title chase. The junior southpaw pitched a full game in the Finals against top-seeded Davenport Assumption after pitching 4 2/3 innings in the quarterfinal win over Winterset, the only returning 3A team from the 2021 State Tournament.

Then he didn’t allow an earned run and limited the Knights to just two hits. He struck out nine with only one walk. Assumption hit a .080 single batting average against Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association 3A Northeast first-team all-district selection.

Overall, Then allowed four runs on six hits in 11 2/3 innings pitched. He struck out 17 batters and had a .86 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched).

Then finished the season 8-0 with a 1.71 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He had 80 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings and a team-high 11 starts.

MVC Mississippi Force

The Mississippi Division of the Mississippi Valley Conference has been busy this season. Four teams qualified for the 3A and 4A state tournaments.

Western Dubuque was the second seed and won the 3A crown. Iowa City High and Cedar Rapids Prairie were ranked second and third in 4A. Both of their tournaments ended prematurely at the hands of runner-up West Des Moines Dowling.

Iowa City Liberty made its state debut as the No. 8 seed. The Lightning actually finished last in the division with a 12-18 conference record, closing with a 21-20 overall record. . Liberty’s 6-3 loss to Johnston in the quarterfinals was the Dragons’ closest state competition.

City High won the division, edging out the Hawks. The Bobcats were third ahead of Dubuque Wahlert and Cedar Falls. The Golden Eagles and Tigers finished the regular season ranked 3A and 4A respectively.

The division proved to be one of the toughest in the state.

Owen Huehnergarth Semi-Finals

Dyersville Beckman challenged three-time defending and top-seeded state champion Van Meter. The Bulldogs’ huge sixth inning propelled them to the Class 2A Finals and ended the Blazers’ season.

Senior Owen Huehnergarth went 3-for-4 and scored the Blazers’ first run in their first semifinal since 2017. He had five hits, one RBI and one run in two state games, ending his career of preparation.

Beckman’s Owen Huehnergarth reacts after scoring a run during a State 2A Semifinal match between Beckman Catholic and Van Meter at Merchants Park in Carroll, Iowa on Thursday, July 21, 2022. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette )

The four-sport athlete closed out his senior season with some pretty impressive distinction. He contributed to the first four teams in three sports. Beckman reached the 1A semi-finals in football, also losing to Van Meter in that match. Huehnergarth was also a standout football player, helping the team advance to the state semifinals in the spring. In addition to leading the Blazers to the state semifinals in those team sports, Huehnergarth also placed fifth in the 1A State Wrestling Tournament, reaching the 195-pound semifinals.

Huehnergarth will attend Southeastern Community College to play baseball.

Van Meter joins an elite company

Van Meter beat Estherville-Lincoln Central, 10-0, in five innings for its fourth straight state crown. The Bulldogs became only the fourth program in state history to win four consecutive state titles. They are the first to do so since West Des Moines Valley won the 4A Championship from 2003-06.

Norway was the first to achieve the feat. The legendary program that won eight summer titles in 11 Finals appearances also won four consecutive 1A championships from 1981-1984.

Lansing Kee was the second program to do so. Led by coach Gene Schultz, the Hawks won 2A titles from 1989 to 1991 and added the 1A title in 1992.

Van Meter also closed the season 39-0 and became the 12th undefeated summer champion and first since Twin Cedars went 36-0 to win the 2014 1A title. The Bulldogs will start next season with a streak of 54 consecutive wins.

Teams set to return in 2023

Twelve Gazette-area teams qualified for the state in all four classes. Some teams have young squads that could easily go back and forth next season.

In 1A, Lisbon and South Winneshiek have young squads. The Lions made their second consecutive appearance. They return all but two starters after bringing everyone back from 2021. Hunter Clark is Lisbon’s ace and he and Alex Bock are two of the top three hitters. South Winn has more holes to fill offensively, but returns top pitcher Keagen Streeter.

Mid-Prairie and Cascade represented the River Valley Conference in state field 2A. Don’t be surprised if they are back, awaiting their district/substate assignments. The Golden Hawks beat two ranked foes to advance to the semifinals and fire all but two players. Karson Grout (.384) and Cain Brown (.374) are solid offensive leaders. Mid-Prairie returns all 19 wins on the mound, including four from Grout and Miller, who picked up the quarterfinal victory in his second appearance in the state.

Mid-Prairie’s Karson Grout celebrates during a 2A State Semifinal game between Mid-Prairie and Estherville Lincoln Central at Merchants Park in Carroll, Iowa on Thursday, July 21, 2022. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Cascade has graduated three starters, including ace Jack Carr. With Cooper Hummel, DJ Soper and Jase Reinke back (combined 11-3), the Cougars will be strong again.

Prairie has played in four state tournaments since 2016. The Hawks could be in contention for a third straight trip. The Hawks are returning dynamic players in Maddux Frese and Cal Sullivan, who have combined for more than 90 hits this season. Kade Knock hit nearly .380 with 37 hits. The two Freses also had six wins and a gutsy extra-inning no-decision in the final understate victory over Kennedy that Sullivan closed out for the win. Kam Volz entered the state with an 8-0 mark and is also back. The Hawks’ depth will fill in nicely.

State baseball predictions: How did we do?

Predictions mean very little. They are a good source of conversation and bulletin board material. The Gazette attempted to predict the winners of each round.

The Gazette correctly predicted the four champions – third seed New London (1A), No. 1 Van Meter (2A), No. 2 Western Dubuque (3A) and first seed Johnston in 4A.

The Gazette finished with a 20-8 record in all four classes. The best record was 6-1 in 3A, picking the two finalists correctly. Records for other classes were 5-2 in 1A and 2A and only 4-3 in 4A.

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