116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Now that the Iowa High School Athletic Association state baseball tournaments are complete, let’s take a look back at some of the standout performances and a look ahead to next season.
Then and now for Western Dubuque
Western Dubuque captured its first state baseball championship, placing second in 2006. Pitcher Isaac Then played a big role in the Bobcats’ Class 3A title run. The junior lefty tossed a complete game in the final against top-seeded Davenport Assumption after pitching 4 2/3 innings in the quarterfinal victory over Winterset, the lone returning 3A team from the 2021 state tournament.
Then didn’t allow an earned run and limited the Knights to just two hits. He struck out nine with only one walk. Assumption managed a mere .080 batting average against the 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 0.86 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).
Then finished the season 8-0 with a 1.71 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He tallied 80 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings and a team-high 11 starts.
Strength of MVC Mississippi
The Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division was loaded 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 seeded 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 mark, closing with a 21-20 overall record. Liberty’s 6-3 loss to Johnston in the quarterfinals was the Dragons’ closest state contest.
City High won the division, edging the Hawks. The Bobcats were third ahead of Dubuque Wahlert and Cedar Falls. The Golden Eagles and Tigers ended the regular season ranked in 3A and 4A, respectively.
The division proved to be one of the toughest in the state.
Owen Huehnergarth’s semifinal showings
Dyersville Beckman challenged three-time defending state champion and top-seeded Van Meter. The Bulldogs’ huge sixth inning propelled them to the Class 2A final 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 tallied five hits, an RBI and a run in two state games, capping his prep career.
The four-sport athlete closed his senior season with a pretty impressive distinction. He contributed to top-four team finishes in three sports. Beckman reached the 1A semifinals in football, losing to Van Meter in that game as well. Huehnergarth was also a standout soccer player, helping the team 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 at the 1A state wrestling tournament, reaching the 195-pound semifinals.
Huehnergarth will attend Southeastern Community College to play baseball.
Van Meter joins elite company
Van Meter defeated Estherville-Lincoln Central, 10-0, in five innings for its fourth straight state crown. The Bulldogs became just the fourth program in state history to win four consecutive state titles. They are the first to do it since West Des Moines Valley won the 4A championship from 2003-06.
Norway was the first to achieve the feat. The storied program that won eight summer titles in 11 finals appearances also won four straight 1A championships from 1981-84.
Lansing Kee was the second program to do it. Led by Coach Gene Schultz, the Hawks won 2A titles from 1989-91 and added the 1A title in 1992.
Van Meter also closed the season 39-0 and became the 12th undefeated summer champion and the first since Twin Cedars went 36-0 to win the 2014 1A title. The Bulldogs will begin next season with a 54-game win streak.
Teams poised to return in 2023
Twelve Gazette-area teams qualified for state across the four classes. Some of the teams have young rosters that could easily make a return trip next season.
In 1A, Lisbon and South Winneshiek have young rosters. The Lions made their second straight state appearance. They return all but two starters after bringing back everyone from 2021. Hunter Clark is Lisbon’s ace and he and Alex Bock are two of the top three in hits. South Winn has more holes to fill offensively, but returns leading pitcher Keagen Streeter.
Mid-Prairie and Cascade represented the River Valley Conference in the 2A state field. Don’t be surprised if they are back, pending their district/substate assignments. The Golden Hawks beat two ranked foes to get to the semifinals and return all but two players. Karson Grout (.384) and Cain Brown (.374) are strong offensive leaders. Mid-Prairie returns all 19 wins on the mound, including four from Grout and Miller, who earned the quarterfinal win in his second state appearance.
Cascade graduated three starters, including ace Jack Carr. With Cooper Hummel, D.J. Soper and Jase Reinke back (combined 11-3) the Cougars will be strong again.
Prairie has made four state tournament appearances since 2016. The Hawks could be in line for a third consecutive trip. The Hawks return dynamic players in Maddux Frese and Cal Sullivan, who combined for more than 90 hits this season. Kade Knock hit almost .380 with 37 hits. Both Frese also had six wins and a gutsy extra-inning no-decision in the substate final win over Kennedy that Sullivan closed for the win. Kam Volz entered state with an 8-0 mark and is back as well. The Hawks’ depth will fill in nicely.
State baseball predictions: How’d we do?
Predictions mean very little. They are a good source of conversation fodder and bulletin board material. The Gazette took a crack at predicting winners of each round.
The Gazette correctly predicted all four champions — third-seeded New London (1A), No. 1 Van Meter (2A), No. 2-seed Western Dubuque (3A) and top-ranked Johnston in 4A.
The Gazette finished with a 20-8 record across the all four classes. The best record was 6-1 in 3A, picking both finalists correctly. The records for the other classes were 5-2 in both 1A and 2A and just 4-3 in 4A.