With the 2019 Iowa high school baseball season beginning Monday, here are seven Gazette area teams to watch.
Coach: Ryan Stensland (15th year, 314-158)
2018 record: 34-7 (Substate finals)
Returning letterwinners: P/IF Hunter Caves (soph.), IF/P Reed Stallman (soph.), IF/P Kalen Rose (soph.), P/OF Keaton Parker (sr.), OF Luke Smith (sr.), OF/P Keenan Rose (sr.), C/IF Shane Neighbor (soph.), OF Nolan Ossman (sr.), OF/P Austin Huber (jr.), IF Grant Soukup (jr.), OF/P Cael Neighbor (soph.), P/IF Sam Fulk (sr.), IF/C/DH Austin Stallman (sr.), P/IF Caden Evans (soph.), OF Dillon Kremer (soph.), IF Jordan Balderston (jr.)
Outlook: The Pirates were impressive last season, climbing their way up the Class 1A rankings in a talented Tri-Rivers Conference. They advanced to the substate finals, falling to Don Bosco for a trip to Des Moines. Alburnett has talent and lots of depth, spearheaded by all-stater Keaton Parker and Hunter Caves. The Pirates could contend for a TRC title and state berth but need someone to emerge as a team leader.
Coach: Roamn Hummel (10th year, 257-77)
2018 record: 31-5 (District finals)
Returning letterwinners: OF/P Haris Hoffman (sr.), 1B/P Reid Rausch (sr.), C Riley Reed (sr.), OF/P Logan Otting (sr.), 2B/P Wil Roling (sr.)
Outlook: Cascade is one of the most consistent programs in the area and this season shouldn’t be any different. The Cougars have all-state performers in Logan Otting, who is an Iowa State football commit, and Haris Hoffman. Reid Rausch is also a leader for Cascade, which spent part of the season ranked first in Class 2A. The Cougars have experienced talent. The key will be developing depth as the season progresses.
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Cedar Rapids Jefferson
Co-coaches: Gordy Nordgren (247 wins) and Terry Schneekloth (101 wins)
2018 record: 27-14
Returning letterwinners: P/1B Chase Keeney (sr.), OF Drake Frazier (sr.), IF/P Willie Guy (sr.), C Spenser Smith (sr.), IF/P Sam Staley (sr.), P/IF Jon Cross (sr.), IF/P Ozzie Meiborg (jr.), OF Jaxson Kevitt (sr.), OF Devin Hulsing (sr.), IF/P Brayden Boche (sr.), IF/P Luke Weger (sr.), OF Kobe Williams (sr.), IF/P Evan Griffth (sr.)
Outlook: The J-Hawks return their top two pitchers from last season in all-stater Chase Keeney (8-2) and Jon Cross (7-0). They have some speed and scrappy players like Drake Frazier, Willie Guy and Ozzie Meiborg back from a team that tied for second in the MVC Mississippi Division. If Jefferson can play solid defense and generate run support, it could be much improved.
Cedar Rapids Xavier
Coach: Dan Halter (2nd year, 30-10)
2018 record: 30-10 (District finals)
Returning letterwinners: 3B Kyle Moeder (sr.), C Garrett Ries (sr.), OF/P Patrick McGinn (sr.), IF/OF Quinn Schulte (sr.), OF/P Bryson Bastian (sr.), OF/P Nate Skala (sr.), P Ben Kisting (jr.), P Braden Albert (sr.), IF/P Jaxson Konzen (Sr.), OF/P Hunter Hartgrave (sr.), IF/P Kyle Meaney (sr.), 1B/P Derrick Skala (sr.), OF Zach Frost (sr.), 1B Isaac Ball (Sr.)
Outlook: The Saints captured the MVC Mississippi Division title last year. They have a strong batting lineup, including Kyle Moeder, Garrett Ries and Patrick McGinn, who will play at Southeastern Community College. Xavier is looking for its first state berth since 2013 and could have a good chance if it can develop the pitching staff that returns junior Ben Kisting, who was 5-2 last year.
Coach: Travis Griffith (12th year, 337-191)
2018 record: 41-4 (Class 1A state semifinals)
Returning letterwinners: SS/P Jake Hilmer (sr.), IF/P Trevor Boge (sr.), OF/P David Seber (sr.), OF/P Austin Hilmer (fr.), 1B/P Nathan McEnany (jr.), 3B/C Lucas Voss (jr.), 3B/C Alex Sturbaum (soph.), P/UT Ricky Bebensee (jr.), IF Parker Bechen (jr.), OF Jason Williams (jr.), OF/P Gunner Vanourney (fr.)
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Outlook: North Linn has been one of the state’s top Class 1A teams the last five seasons. The Lynx continue to reload and should again. All-stater Jake Hilmer, Trevor Boge and David Seber will lead the way. North Linn will rely on pitching and defense. The Lynx will need younger plays to step in and fill holes due to graduation.
Coach: Keith McSweeney (20th season, 495-256)
2018 record: 32-10 (Class 3A state quarterfinals)
Returning letterwinners: P/IF Cam Miller (jr.), C Adam Bock (sr.), P Lucas Walker (jr.), 2B Chris McSweeney (sr.), P/OF Ryan Geistkemper (sr.), OF Jackson Pipolo (sr.)
Outlook: The Spartans have some big shoes to fill with the graduation of some longtime starters, but they do have a strong nucleus back from last season. Solon has reached the state tournament in three of the last five years, including two appearances since 2016. Solon returns two quality starters in Cam Miller and Lucas Walker, who combined for a 15-4 record and about a 1.20 earned-run average.
Coach: Casey Bryant (20 years, 472-272)
2018 record: 34-10 (Class 4A state semifinals)
Returning letterwinners: DH/P/OF Damon Jaeger (sr.), SS/P Sam Goodman (sr.), C/P Calvin Harris (jr.), P/OF/1B Kyle Lehmann (sr.), 3B Sawyer Nauman (soph.), 1B/P Zach Bierman (sr.), OF/P Payton Quagliano (jr.), CF/2B/P Ben Bryant (jr.), P Casey Perrenoud (jr.), OF Zach Butcher (sr.), SS/P Matt Maiers (sr.)
Outlook: Western Dubuque returns many pieces from last year’s state semifinal team, including NCAA Division-I talents in Calvin Harris (Ole Miss), Sam Goodman (Iowa) and Zach Bierman (Creighton). Nine players are back with starting experience and the Bobcats have one of the most balanced lineups in the area. Western Dubuque, along with Iowa City Liberty, will begin its first MVC season.
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