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North Linn finds the fun in district baseball victory
TROY MILLS — Baseball is supposed to be fun.
North Linn Coach Travis Griffith felt his players needed just a little reminder after a tight postseason opener earlier this week.
From the first pitch, a rowdy and loud dugout teamed with dialed-in starters to show his message was received.
The sixth-ranked Lynx rolled to a 13-1 victory in five innings over Iowa Valley in a Class 1A District 9 semifinal Thursday night at North Linn.
'I was happy with the energy,' Griffith said. 'We did all the little things that we didn't do the other night with energy (and) hustle. It was a great atmosphere.'
The Lynx set a school record in wins last season, reaching the state semifinals. Griffith provided a little perspective that led to a good Wednesday practice that fueled Thursday night's fire.
'We talked about it with the kids,' Griffith said. 'I think they were putting pressure on themselves. Everybody's telling them they're supposed to get to the state tournament. You're supposed to be so good.
'We just talked about going out and having fun. If we play well, have fun and do the little things then we can live with it.'
North Linn (33-9) could certainly live with the production against Iowa Valley. The Lynx belted 13 hits, receiving at least one from eight starters. They tallied multiple runs in each inning.
'Everybody was hitting the ball well,' North Linn all-state freshman Jake Hilmer said. 'We were fortunate to put them in the gaps (Thursday night). It was a total team effort at the plate.'
Hilmer powered the Lynx, tying a state single-game high this season with three triples. He drove in four runs and scored three times. Hilmer was safely at third when he continued home — once on an error and another when the defense hesitated and he maneuvered around a tag at the plate.
Good work during morning practice and some hitting advice from Griffith helped correct some things from the first playoff game.
'He really knows his stuff,' Hilmer said. 'It's good to have a coaching staff that knows their stuff as well as they do.'
Hilmer said the team talked before the game. They saw a large crowd file into the bleachers and wanted to make things fun for themselves and the fans. The results speak for themselves.
'You could see it and feel it in the dugout,' Hilmer said. 'It helps when you start off strong, but there was nobody pressing. There was nobody overthinking or anything. It was loose and it showed on the field that it's better when we're playing loose.'
The Lynx like to run, taking extra bases whenever possible. In the first, Miller reached on an error, taking second, and scored on Hilmer's first hit. North Linn stole three bases and received consecutive bunt singles from Blake McGraw and Trevor Boge in a six-run second. The Lynx can put pressure on opponents.
'Really, it comes down to heady kids wanting that extra base, waiting for them to make mistakes and capitalizing on those mistakes,' Griffith said. 'We small-ball it. We know it. We take extra bases. We bunt. We hit and run. That's what we do and we're not going to stop doing it.'
Miller, the North Linn starter, only went two innings and made quick work of the Tigers while he was on the mound. He threw just seven pitches to three batters, striking out two in the first. He allowed a walk to lead off the second, but retired the next three in order. Trevor Boge pitched the final three innings, allowing just one run on one hit.
Miller and Hilmer are available for the district final against Lisbon.
'Ryan was very effective,' Griffith said. 'It was good to see him cruise again, but he's pitched well all year.'
Dylan Healey had a single and scored for Iowa Valley (13-10).
The Lynx advance to face Lisbon at home on Saturday. Lisbon (24-12) split with North Linn in the regular season. Hilmer said the Lions are one of the top eight teams in 1A. Griffith said the Lynx will want to keep that a low-scoring affair.
'I don't think any team has the advantage,' Griffith said. 'It's going to be a great high school baseball game. It's the kind of game everyone has been looking for.'
LISBON HANDLES HLV
Lisbon returns to the district final with a decisive 14-4 victory over HLV in a Class 1A District 9 contest Thursday night at North Linn High School in Troy Mills.
Brett Givens and Ty Williams helped power the Lions with three hits apiece. Givens scored four times. Williams added six RBIs, including a two-run double in the Lions' seven-run fifth. He also had an RBI single in the first, tying the game at 1-1, following Dalton Kriegel's RBI single in the top of the first for HLV (11-13).
Lisbon (24-12) overcame a slow start, but finally got on track in the fourth. Williams had a two-run single in that frame. Jake Jannett drove in two runs for the Lions. Jannett and Austin Krob each scored twice. Givens started and threw 3 2/3 innings and teamed with reliever Austin Krob to limit HLV to four runs, scattering a total of nine hits.
Kriegel and Nate Van Buren had two hits apiece and an RBI for the Warriors.
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