116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
TROY MILLS — Youth has served Alburnett and North Linn well this season.
The two Tri-Rivers Conference programs have 34 total players that have combined for 62 overall victories. None of them are seniors.
Their meeting in the Class 1A District 7 final Saturday night at North Linn could be one of many big games between the two teams in the future. The top-ranked Lynx (39-2) and the Pirates (23-11) face off for a substate berth at 7.
'We talked about it before the game that this was step two,' Alburnett Coach Ryan Stensland said about the district semifinal. 'This was a big stage and the stages are only going to get bigger, and we're looking forward to being on that (district finals) stage.'
Alburnett has 19 players on its roster, including two juniors. The rest are sophomores, freshmen and eighth-graders. The Pirates reached the substate final last season and more seasoned players are leading younger teammates into their first postseason.
'We have a lot of young guys, so it's a great experience for them,' Alburnett junior Ian Boline said. 'A couple of other guys and I were in this position last year. To me, it's just the same thing. There's nothing we have to worry about.'
The Lynx have set a school record for wins in a season, shattering the old mark of 35 set in 2015 when they reached the 1A state semifinals. The current sophomores were key contributors to that run and missed a repeat trip to state by one victory a year ago.
North Linn beat Alburnett, 3-0 and 8-4, in the regular season. The Pirates will hope the third time's a charm.
'If we come out and play like we did (Thursday night) and play as a team we will be just fine,' Boline said after a 3-2 district semifinal win over Belle Plaine decided in the last at-bat. 'I think we can beat anyone if we play together. We never quit.'
The winner advances to a substate final against the winner of Iowa Mennonite (13-9) and Sigourney (15-7) at Keota.
Sixth-ranked Lisbon (29-5) travels to Durant (21-7) for a 1A District 9 final. Lansing Kee (24-10) hosts Saint Ansgar (26-6) for the 1A District 5 championship.
In Class 2A, Monticello (22-6) faces seventh-ranked Dyersville Beckman (27-11) in the District 7 final at Commercial Club Park. The pairing is a rematch of last year's district final won by the Blazers.
The Panthers have reached this round regularly under head coach Josh Soper, but are looking for their first substate berth.
'It never gets old,' Soper said. 'We've been here five of the six years I've been at Monticello.'
The winner will face the 2A District 8 champion. Sixth-ranked Cascade (20-12) will host Northeast (20-12) for the District 8 title.
Mid-Prairie (16-14) heads to ninth-ranked Iowa City Regina (25-7) in the 2A District 10 championship.
South Winneshiek (20-13) heads to top-ranked New Hampton (31-2) for a district final. Jesup (17-10) plays Denver (16-14) at Parkersburg in the 2A District 6 final.
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