The postseason has been a virtual minefield of Class 2A upsets this postseason.
The district field lost three of the top six ranked teams, four from the top 10 and two more that received votes. One of the teams that managed to sidestep district slip-ups was perennial power and defending state champion Dyersville Beckman.
The reason is pretty simple and cliché, but true.
“There are a lot of ranked teams, getting upset,” Beckman Coach Fred Martin said. “It’s one team after another. If you have a little bit of an off night you can lose pretty easily, because there a lot of good teams out there.
“You have to take one game at a time the way this is set up. There are so many good teams on this side of the state.”
One ranked team will be assured of a trip to the state tournament, while another top 2A team will be sent home for good. Fourth-ranked Beckman will face No. 5 Wilton in the Class 2A Substate 4 final at Solon. Tuesday’s substate finals for both 1A and 2A are set to start at 7 p.m.
The Blazers (29-11) and Beavers (24-5) will play the only 2A matchup between ranked teams.
“We’re playing pretty well right now,” Martin said. “Our pitching is coming on now. We’re healthy pitching-wise. We’re kind of on a roll right now, but we have our hands full with Wilton.”
The duo of Jackson Bennett and Connor McDermott is an important part in the pitching success. Bennett is 6-3 in eight starts, winning five of his last six decisions. He has 65 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings with a 1.89 earned-run average.
McDermott is 5-3 in 10 starts, including four wins in his last five decisions. He also has 65 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings with a 1.28 ERA.
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The production should not come as a surprise. Bennett earned victories in the state final and quarterfinal last year, helping Beckman to its sixth title in 18 state appearances. McDermott threw a two-hit complete game shutout in the semifinal against Iowa City Regina after an inning of relief of Bennett in the quarterfinal.
“We’re stronger pitching-wise,” Martin said. “Jackson Bennett and McDermott both have another year under their belt and they are just stronger pitchers out there. They are doing really well now.”
Wilton will likely counter with left-handed starter Jared Townsend, who has committed to play for the University of Iowa. The junior had a one-hit, 16-strikeout performance against Durant to open postseason play. Runs will be at a premium if the Blazers want a third straight state berth and sixth in the last seven seasons.
“He throws pretty well,” Martin said of Townsend. “I would think it would be a pretty low-scoring game.
“Unless there are walks and errors, you’re going to see a game with some pretty good pitching.”
Oelwein produced the biggest upset in the 2A field Saturday, knocking off top-ranked Cascade. The Huskies played well in all three facets, jumping to a four-run lead in the first and committing just one error during starter Steven Nicolay’s gem. Oelwein Coach Jason Gearhart said the 16-14 record doesn’t represent the potential of the Huskies.
“We’ve had glimpses of playing like this but it hasn’t been consistent,” Gearhart said. “We’ve been up and down a little bit.
“When we put it together, we’re a pretty good team,” Gearhart said. “Our record is a little deceiving. When we play well and our pitchers pitched like Steven (Saturday night), we’re a tough team to beat.”
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Oelwein will play Denver (17-13) at Independence. The Cyclones produced an upset of their own, beating No. 8 New Hampton, 7-2. Denver ended Oelwein’s season a year ago.
“We will be more confident than last year,” Nicolay said about the postseason rematch.
Third-ranked Iowa City Regina will attempt to earn a second-straight state berth and eighth in the program’s history. The Regals returned everyone back from last year’s state semifinal squad. Regina (26-7) travels to Fairfield to take on Central Lee (21-7) in the Class 2A Substate 5 final.
In 1A, Tri-Rivers powers have continued to impress. Second-ranked Lisbon, No. 3 North Linn and No. 5 Alburnett have combined for a 106-9 record this season, including six losses at the hands of each other and seven total to teams ranked in the top three of 1A.
Second-ranked Lisbon (33-0) and No. 3 North Linn have a chance for a second-straight state appearance, while Alburnett (34-6) is looking for its second state berth in program history and first since 2006.
Lisbon is the state’s only unbeaten team and plays Iowa Mennonite (16-9) at Washington, Iowa. IMS knocked off No. 8 New London in the district semifinal.
North Linn faces Wapsie Valley (16-12) at Manchester. The Lynx have not allowed a run yet this postseason, outscoring three district foes by a total of 26-0.
Alburnett survived a thriller in the district final against Hudson. The Pirates have Don Bosco (24-8). The Dons have made five state trips since 2008.
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