'New season' begins for Coe at IIAC baseball tournament

Top-seeded Wartburg awaits winner between Coe and Luther

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The postseason is a new season.

Coe Coach Steve Cook wants his Kohawks to approach the conference tournament the same way they did the season opener.

“We talked about revisiting that feeling, that anticipation, of the new season about to start,” Cook said. “Coming out of February practices and being ready, and anticipating, but with no history. You have no at-bats. You have nothing to work off, and really how much of an exciting time that is.

“I said we’re going to duplicate that. We’ve had three or four days to get our minds that way and ultimately (Thursday) it’s no different than the beginning of the year two months ago.”

The Kohawks will make their 10th straight appearance in the Iowa Conference baseball tournament Thursday. Fifth-seeded Coe plays No. 4 Luther in the first round at Bill Quinby Field at Daniels Park, starting at 2 p.m. The winner takes on regular-season conference champion Wartburg (28-12, 19-5 IIAC) at 7:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“No matter what brought us to this point we have an opportunity to have a clean slate and start again,” Cook said. “We’re looking forward to that and the opportunity to see if we can get hot for three days.”

Coe (21-16) finished the regular season with a 13-11 conference mark. The biggest positive is the Kohawks have at least one victory against each IIAC team.

“We’re excited to play,” Coe senior outfielder Andrew Brierton said. “We’ve beaten every team this year. We haven’t been swept, so we think we can win.”

The Kohawks have struggled defensively, posting the conference’s lowest fielding percentage. Their bats have overcome some of the fielding woes. Coe hits for a .298 batting average, trailing only Wartburg (.314) and Luther (.304) in the IIAC.

They will have to tap into the traits that allowed them to be successful and string wins together. One strength has been hitting with runners in scoring position.

“We have to defend better,” Cook said. “In the short term like this, are you going to change all of your colors? Not necessarily.

“For us, we did a really good job hitting with runners on base. Even where our defense has been statistically, our pitching staff has been solid, but when we’re winning games we’re finding ways to drive in runs and we’re very efficient with runners on base.”

Coe starter Thomas Schaedel (6-2) stands among league leaders in victories and owns a 2.83 earned-run average. He asserted himself as the Kohawks’ ace during that season-opening trip to Florida.

With a young team, Brierton said the emphasis on a new start and just playing the game might work best.

“When we came out in Florida we had such high expectations for ourselves,” Brierton said. “We kind of want that to be our vibe going into the tournament.”

The Norse (25-15, 15-9) took two of three from Coe. All three games were decided by two runs or less, including a 5-4, 11-inning Norse victory.

“They have good pitchers,” Brierton said. “To get past them, we’re going to need some clutch hitting.”

Third-seeded Buena Vista (24-15, 15-9) and No. 6 Central (20-20, 12-12) will open the tournament at Veterans Memorial Stadium at 1 p.m. The winner will face No. 2 Dubuque (23-15, 17-7) at 4 p.m.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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