Quality over quantity for Clayton Ridge/Central

CRC looks for fourth straight first-round victory in postseason

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Clayton Ridge/Central has done a lot with a little.

With a small roster that includes just two reserves and one senior, the Eagles have posted their fourth straight winning season.

“We actually only have 11 players at this point,” CRC Coach Zach Mueller said. “We have a solid core of juniors that are just getting it done.”

The Eagles will look for their fourth consecutive first-round victory in the postseason with the start of the Class 1A and 2A district play Saturday. CRC (19-12) faces North Cedar (6-21) at Commercial Club Park in Dyersville, starting at 5 p.m.

• Area district, substate brackets

CRC has good chemistry and camaraderie combined with a passion for baseball. Players ascended through the ranks together with many current juniors being thrust into starting roles as sophomores, filling holes from graduation.

“We have a good crew,” said Mueller, in his second season as head coach. “They’ve been playing together since sixth or seventh grade. They’ve hung together and in high school they are together all the time. … They’ve meshed well.”

The Eagles have reached the second round of the playoffs the last three seasons. Extending the streak will depend on the starters and fielders. They are the same traits that have helped them surpass last year’s win total.

The season started with a question as to who would be the team’s ace. Kole Brandel has a team-high six victories and 49 1/3 innings pitched. Derek Ehrhardt has returned from an injury suffered in basketball, recording a 3-1 mark with a 1.83 earned-run average. Sumner Smith is 4-2 for the Eagles.

“The big key for us has been our pitching,” Mueller said. “Our pitchers have to be ahead in the count and they have to work the ball down.

“If we keep the ball down and make defensive plays, we look like a real good team.”

The nightcap will pit Maquoketa Valley (16-16) against Anamosa (7-28) in the other 2A District 7 first-round game.

In other area 2A games, Waterloo Columbus (11-23) plays Union Community (7-21) at La Porte City.

At Waukon, South Winneshiek (13-18) takes on MFL MarMac (4-18) and Sumner-Fredericksburg (11-22) faces the host Indians (6-20).

In 2A District 8 at Durant, Tipton (14-14) drew Camanche (4-21) and West Branch (3-22) plays Durant (15-13).

Mid-Prairie (12-16) faces West Liberty (4-23) at Louisa-Muscatine.

In Class 1A, Cedar Valley Christian (1-7) plays English Valleys at North English, beginning at 8 p.m. The game will follow the matchup between Moulton-Udell (2-15) and Montezuma (0-21).

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

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