116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
North Linn has jumped to another strong start this season.
Despite injuries to a couple returning starters, holes to fill from graduating 2020 seniors and the need to develop pitching depth, everything is starting to take shape for the Lynx.
North Linn is ranked eighth in Class 1A of the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association poll. It has outscored opponents, 78-22, for its fourth 6-0 start in the last five seasons.
“I’m very happy with where we are at early in the season,” Lynx Coach Travis Griffith said. “A lot of pieces are already falling into place in our big picture.”
North Linn has used 10 pitchers so far, including a couple eighth-grade players. None are seniors but the young staff has a 3.69 team earned-run average and opponents are batting .192 against them.
“We still need to improve with our pitchers on too many free bases and some other minor things,” Griffith said. “Overall, we are very pleased.”
Returning starters Cael Bridgewater and Ben Wheatley suffered spring injuries that have prevented them from being 100 percent, but the Lynx offense hasn’t stalled, averaging 13 runs a game. North Linn is second in 1A with a .391 team batting average. The Lynx lead 1A in scoring differential (56 runs) and stolen bases with 55. They are tied for first with 54 RBIs and second in total runs. North Linn’s 12 doubles is tied for third among 1A teams.
Austin Hilmer has resumed his leadership role. The all-state performer has the top batting average on the team. He is perfect in 18 steal attempts and is 1-0 on the mound.
Mason Bechen, an eighth-grader whose brother, Parker, was a senior leader for last year’s state semifinalist team, has made an immediate contribution. He is 2-0 and hasn’t allowed an earned run in seven total innings. The younger Bechen is hitting .316 with a .440 on-base percentage and is tied for the team lead with Corbin Woods and Jarin Peyton with eight RBIs.
“Austin Hilmer has led the way, batting .632,” Griffith said. “Mason Bechen has settled in nicely as an everyday starter and has looked very sharp on the mound.”
The schedule will get tougher in the coming weeks, starting Thursday. The Lynx travel to Miles to play Easton Valley (4-1) and then face North Tama (5-0) on Saturday at Traer.
“We’ll find out how good we are,” Griffith said. “Both are very good.”
Power surge: Early-season home run leaders
A trio of Gazette-area players are among the state leaders in home runs a week into the season. Cedar Rapids Washington’s Lane Baxter, Mid-Prairie’s Aidan Rath and Jesup’s Brodie Kresser have three home runs apiece.
Baxter, a sophomore, had a solo home run in the season opener against Linn-Mar. He also had two in a 9-8 victory over Dubuque Senior, driving in five runs.
Rath hit one home run in the season opener against West Liberty. He also had two in a doubleheader split with Durant. Kresser started with a home run against North Linn and added one in each game of a doubleheader sweep of Hudson.
Funky start for Ed-Co’s Cael Funk
Edgewood-Colesburg sophomore Cael Funk posted a memorable start to the season.
Funk pitched a no-hitter in a 4-1 victory over Starmont, recording 18 strikeouts, the best single-game total this season.
Funk faced 24 total batters without a walk or hit-by-pitch. He tossed 93 total pitches. Only three batters reached on fielding errors. Funk is 2-0, going 6 1/3 innings in a 6-4 win over Springville.