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CEDAR RAPIDS — You get thrown into a situation you’re not mentally or physically prepared for sometimes in small-school sports.
So it was for the six seniors on this Edgewood-Colesburg baseball team. They were part of the varsity as eighth-graders, began getting a lot of playing time as freshmen.
Needless to say, it was tough. The Vikings were 2-29 in 2013, just 4-23 the next season.
“We weren’t very good,” Mike Jones said.
They couldn’t have been expected to be good. Though they’re good now, at least enough to be the school’s first state tournament team.
Ed-Co (21-12) takes on West Sioux (25-2) in the Class 1A quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at 5 at Principal Park in Des Moines. It’s the 2-7 game, with Ed-Co the seventh seed.
The tournament begins Friday afternoon at 5 with Highland (24-6) playing Remsen St. Mary’s (30-5).
“These seniors had to play early. They really got thrown into the mix,” said Ed-Co Coach Aaron Hamann. “We only had one senior last season, two the season before that and one the season before that. These kids were playing varsity baseball early, before they should have been. They were outmatched, quite frankly. But it’s a pretty tight-knit group. You could look around when they were young and see the pieces were there.”
Jones, Carter Aulwes, Dawson Harbaugh, Seth Hoeger, Kolton Moser and Nick Oldfather stuck with it when it would have been easy to quit. They all start.
Austin Meyer also played a lot early in his career but got hurt and has missed this entire season. Juniors Brady Helle and Dakota Funke, and freshman Ethan Streicher round out the most-days starting lineup for Ed-Co.
“We hit a lot of rough spots our freshman and sophomore years,” said Jones, the team’s ace pitcher, who is headed to play at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville. “Our junior year, we started to win a few more. This year, we’re going to state, and that feels really great.”
“A lot of us have been playing varsity since we were eighth-graders, for five years,” Aulwes said. “We didn’t have enough seniors, didn’t have enough people on the team, so we ended up playing varsity really early. That (experience) has shown.”
Lefty Jones (7-2, 0.55 earned run average) has thrown the last 19 postseason innings for his club, allowing just one earned run. He beat Lansing Kee in the district semifinals, eighth-ranked Jesup in the district semifinals and No. 5 Alburnett in the substate finals, throwing a two-hit shutout.
“He just goes out there and pitches,” Hamann said. “He has put the time in since he came into the program. He’s not a big kid at all. But he gives it everything his body can give on the mound.”
Hamann has regularly taken his non-seniors to the state tournament to watch, so he doesn’t feel his team will be overwhelmed by the environment. They’re planning on playing three games there, he said.
Considering the way they have been playing, you can’t blame them.
“We didn’t really look at records, we didn’t really look at rankings coming in (to the postseason),” Aulwes said. “We’ve just gone out and played ball, and I think that’s what’s really helped us.”
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