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DES MOINES — The song has the same melody and words. The band playing the tune, however, is different this time.
The current Dyersville Beckman baseball players haven’t skipped a beat.
After graduation depleted the starting lineup from the 2012 and 2013 championship squads, the Blazers continued the tradition, returning to the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 2A state tournament. Third-seeded Beckman (27-13) faces Hinton (23-8) in the quarterfinal round Monday at Principal Park, starting at 6 p.m.
Beckman makes its 16th appearance and 15th under head coach Tom Jenk Jr., including 10 since 2000. This year’s achievement is even more special, even if the state tournament is an expectation.
“It’s real rewarding to go back,” Jenk said. “Every time that you go to the state tournament it’s rewarding. it means the kids put s lot of hard work in.”
Preparation began in late December and early January. Players have waited their turn to step into the lineup and each new crop of players try to follow the winning formula and continue the success.
“It changes from year-to-year,” Senior Mitch Steger said about the team leaders. “We like to just reload and keep on the tradition from what the guys before us started and follow in their footsteps playing good fundamental baseball.”
Senior Tony Anstoetter said players are a part of something bigger than the 2014 team. They take a place alongside Blazers from the past, contributing their own chapter to the history books.
“I think it feels better,” Anstoetter said. “Just knowing that we keep adding on to the tradition at Beckman. It is something to feel good about to get accomplished.”
The season has been memorable already. Jenk became just the fifth baseball coach in Iowa history and 16th in the country to reach 1,000 career wins. He has been the cornerstone for the program, taking over as head coach in 1975. Jenk, whose name graces the Beckman baseball diamond at Commercial Club Park, hasn’t his touch.
“It’s really exciting to play for him,” Boeckenstedt said. “He’s more energetic than some of the players. He’s always positive toward you. He helps you out whenever you need it. He’s like a father figure.”
Jenk has reminded the Blazers that any titles were won by previous teams. He won’t deem this team a “defending champion” unless they win three more games. Beckman knows they have just as much to prove, if not more, than the other teams in the field. The target on their backs is a little bigger than many others.
“Everyone wants to beat us, but we’re not the defending state champions is what coach says,” Junior Eric Boeckenstedt said. “The team last year is the defending state champion, so we have nothing to worry about really. Just try to win as much as we can.”
The Blazers have earned their spot in the final eight. Beckman beat fourth-ranked Wilton in the substate final, No. 9 Cascade in the district final and opened the postseason with a victory over Clayton Ridge/Central, which received votes in the final Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association poll. The Blazers have also played a quarter of the teams in the 3A and 4A state field, so they are tested for big games late in the year.
“Every time we have been to the state tournament I don’t think we’ve been seeded below number four. Sometimes we have the most losses down there,” said Jenk, whose team has the second-most losses in the bracket. “We go out and challenge ourselves every time we get an opportunity. We like to play the big schools and we appreciate the big schools that play us.”
The next opponent is unranked Hinton, which is making its first state appearance. The Blackhawks have won 11 straight games.
“We just try to focus on ourselves,” Steger said. “We make sure we do the right things. We’ll try to do the same thing we did (in the substate final) and get quality at-bats, play good defense and put ourselves in position to get a (win.”
If it isn’t broke then don’t try and fix it. Beckman won’t change its approach, even with a new cast on the field. The Blazers will stick to what has proved to be a winning routine, producing titles in 1968, 1986, 2000 and six runner-up finishes.
“We’ll get on the yellow school bus and we’ll ride the yellow school bus down just like we always do. Hopefully it makes it down there and back,” Jenk said with a laugh. “The reward isn’t just getting down there. The reward is bringing home the first-place trophy.
“We’re half done. There is another half to go.”
South Winneshiek (34-1) makes its state tournament debut. The fourth-seeded Warriors play No. 5 Roland-Story (26-12) at 2 p.m.
Iowa City Regina reached the state tournament in Andy Gahan’s final season as head coach of the Regals. Regina (26-16) takes on second-seeded Van Meter (31-2), which is moving up from being a 1A state qualifier last year.
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