116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — Steve Fish has coached baseball for almost four decades.
He has worked with a lot of good teams and talented individuals during that time. Those players and teams have produced 763 wins for the Marion head coach, including the 2021 Class 3A state title in July.
Fish recognizes a special trait that has carried over from last season’s group.
“I think the strength of this team, like last year’s team, is how they get along with each other,” Fish said. “This looks like another team that has a strong team chemistry that understands culture.”
Strong camaraderie can go a long way in making a really good team a championship one. Marion experienced that last year and hopes it will lead to another state crown. The Wolves begin their title defense Monday, hosting Mount Vernon at Mount Mercy’s Plaster Athletic Complex.
Six full-time starters return from a 37-6 team a year ago, including all-state performers Myles Davis, Boede Rahe and Kaden Frommelt.
“The expectations are that we should be able to do it again,” said Davis, a sophomore who has already committed to University of Iowa. “Just come out. We have a chip on our shoulder again. We have a target on our back. I think we have a lot of the same guys. We have the team to get it done again.”
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Fish has emphasized unity. One of his methods was introducing a term that he learned from Alabama softball coach Pat Murphy, who spoke at an Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association clinic. Fish heard Murphy speak of “Mudita” — a concept known in many cultures to enjoy the well-being and success of others.
“These guys have bought into that a little bit,” Fish said. “Baseball is an individual game in a team setting. You want to chase stats and everything, but I think these guys understand that it’s more important to try and chase that win (together).”
Fish said he has been impressed with the players’ approach to baseball and each other in the preseason. Upperclassmen have meshed with younger players, which hasn’t always been easy in a program with players from all grades. At times, some haven’t even started high school.
“I have ninth graders that might step into our starting lineup and they embrace them and make them feel comfortable,” Fish said. “Will that equate to a win right away? I don’t know. I still think we’ll be a dangerous team to play at the end of the year.”
The Wolves have thrived as a tight-knit group. Some play other sports, like basketball and football. Mostly, they share a love of baseball, which makes Perfect Game a regular hangout when not at a teammate’s house.
“We get along really well,” Davis said. “We’re good friends outside of baseball, even outside of the season. … It’s kind of like a brotherhood. We all treat each other the same. We hold each other accountable.”
Then, there are the postgame meals. Perkins and Buffalo Wild Wings are the favorites, enhancing that connection that carries over to the field.
“I feel it separates us from other teams,” Rahe said. “We’re not just hanging out and playing on the field together. All of us are friends outside of the field. We all hang out and come together and create that bond, so I feel like that lets us play with each other. We all know what we all do, so we can always count on the other person to do their job because we know they will.”
Marion is loaded with talent. Five Wolves have already made plans to play in college. Davis with Iowa and Rahe will play for Kirkwood. Seniors Jake Trca and Jaqson Tejada are headed to DMACC, while classmate Cael Hodges will compete at Iowa Central. Frommelt is a lock to play at the next level.
Rahe went 11-0 with a 1.07 earned run average, striking out 90 in 65 2/3 innings. He worked on his mechanics and his strength in the offseason, creating a less “funky” delivery. The effort will make him even more difficult for opposing batters.
“I’ve changed it a lot and got a lot stronger in the gym this year,” Rahe said. “I’ve also worked on finding my voice. I didn’t have much of a voice last year. I was kind of one of the quiet guys, but I’ve tried to find my voice and tried to coach other players what it’s like to be part of the team.”
Davis, just a sophomore, has started since his eighth-grade season. He was the 3A leader with 70 hits and ranked among the leaders in batting average, singles, doubles and total bases last year.
“I’m looking to do the same thing we did last year,” Davis said. “The same I did, personally, and the same thing the team did.
“Just not to play for yourself but for the team. The people to the left, right, in front of you and behind you. Try to get the job done and get another ring.”
Frommelt led Marion with seven home runs and tied Davis and alumnus Owen Puk for a team-high 48 RBIs. He returns with the most extra-base hits with 22 last year.
“I look at those guys as our leaders,” Fish said. “We have a good senior group but I look at those two guys as key pieces.”
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Marion’s potent offense led 3A with a .384 team batting average, 44 hits, 447 runs scored and a .548 slugging percentage, which was a whopping .055 higher than No. 2 Carlisle. The Wolves averaged more than 10.4 runs per game, while giving up about 4.3.
“Every team is different and I like the group that we have coming back,” Fish said. “We have some great experience and some guys with a lot of confidence.
“We talked today that we will probably be ranked pretty highly, but our goal is to be ranked high at the end of the year. This team needs to learn a little bit about their own personality. We have to replace some guys with good experience.”
Marion has reached the state tournament six times in school history, all under Fish with the first trip in 2006. The Wolves have qualified three straight seasons, looking for a fifth in the last six years. They’ve reached the semifinals in each of the last three.
Winning a state title produces an equal amount of pressure and excitement, according to Rahe. The focus is to repeat and relive that championship feeling, but this is from an all-or-nothing situation for the Wolves.
“We have the talent to do it again,” Rahe said. “I think our goal is to win the state title but if we don’t meet that it’s not the end of the world.
“We want to create a bond we can keep forever with our team. That’s what we like most about it.”