116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Winning stretches, division titles and beating ranked teams have all come in the final weeks of the regular season.
Area teams are looking to parlay those feats into successful postseason runs.
Linn-Mar and Cedar Rapids Washington are among the programs that have played well to close the regular season and will try to continue that in the Iowa high school baseball playoffs. Teams from across the state will begin the Class 3A and 4A substate competition with first-round games Friday.
Few teams have matched the roll of the Lions and Warriors to close the regular season. Both teams are 11-5 in their last 16 regular-season games.
Linn-Mar (22-16) is seeded second in Substate 3 and hosts Waterloo East (10-30), while Washington (18-15) travels to No. 3-seed Iowa City West (19-19).
“We’ve done a nice job moving runners on offense and had solid pitching and defense,” Linn-Mar Coach Kyle Rodenkirk said about the stretch. “Our team is resilient and learned a lot this year.”
Linn-Mar has progressed along with the season. Senior Henry Read leads the way with 43 hits, posting a .384 batting average. McKade Jelinek has a team-best 32 RBIs and hits at a .311 clip with 32 hits, including six doubles, five triples and three home runs.
Lions pitchers have recorded a 3.26 team earned-run average. Blake Daubenmier and Carter Bond share the team-high with five wins and Jackson Norton has four on a pitcher-by-committee staff.
“Our key will be making hard contact offensively and throwing strikes,” Rodenkirk said. “I like our defense and the boys are starting to really do some great things on the diamond.”
The Warriors have posted impressive victories over ranked foes this season, including Cedar Rapids Xavier, Cedar Falls and Dubuque Wahlert. West swept Washington, however, in a conference doubleheader May 31.
“West is a solid team that is always well-coached,” Washington Coach Scott Brune said. “West is playing good baseball as of late. We need to be able to come out and match their energy.”
The Warriors meshed later in the season and are healthier as the win-or-go-home format starts. Freshman Caiden Buonadonna leads the Warriors with a .341 batting average, adding eight doubles and 22 RBIs. Roman Rivera leads the Warriors with 34 hits and 29 RBIs.
“We’ve been able to do a nice job in all three facets of the game lately, hitting, pitching and fielding,” Brune said. “We were able to get a couple pieces back from injury which has allowed us more options hitting and on the mound.”
Cedar Rapids Kennedy has played well in the last half of the season. The Cougars have improved to 23-14 overall and received votes in the final Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association rankings. Kennedy has gone 16-5 since beating Davenport Central, 11-4, and hosts the Blue Devils (12-21) again in the first round.
Second-ranked Iowa City High and No. 3 Cedar Rapids Prairie are top seeds. The Little Hawks (29-8) are fresh off clinching their second straight Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division title and host Muscatine (5-27) at Mercer Park.
The Hawks look to return to the state tournament after reaching the semifinals last season. Prairie (29-8) opens the postseason at home against MVC foe Waterloo West (3-31).
In 3A, No. 2-seed Marion (23-10) will attempt its state title defense with a first-round game against Mount Pleasant (9-18) in a Substate 5 that includes top-seeded Davenport Assumption. Marion’s season has been littered with injuries and renovations that left the Wolves without their regular home field and has affected their postseason.
Marion was still searching for a place to host the Panthers Thursday afternoon.
“We have gotten some of our injured guys back,” Marion Coach Steve Fish said. “Unfortunately, our ace (all-state pitcher) Boede Rahe is officially out (for the season) with two other pitchers. If our young pitchers can keep us in games, we are still a dangerous team to play, but you know anything can happen in baseball.”
Cedar Rapids Xavier claimed the MVC Valley Division title a week ago. The Saints (26-11) open their trek to return to state against Iowa Falls-Alden (2-19) at Ken Charipar Field.