CEDAR RAPIDS — Garrett Ries has been a mainstay in the Cedar Rapids Xavier lineup after stepping in as the starting catcher his sophomore season.
He led the team in hitting that season and has a steady producer ever since. The South Dakota State signee has embraced more of a leadership role in his final year with the Class 3A top-ranked Saints, letting his actions do most of the talking.
“He’s not a vocal guy,” Xavier Coach Dan Halter said. “The little things he is doing. Practice habits. Work habits and going about things the right way.”
Ries ranks among Xavier leaders in most offensive categories and expanded his defensive role this season. The Saints are 26-2 and lead the Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division with a 20-2 mark.
“I think he has embraced the leadership part a little bit more,” Halter said. “He is doing a good job, especially with our pitchers. I think he’s done a good job there. He understands hitters well.”
Even though he is a catcher by trade, Ries has played second and first base. Nick Banowetz has been able to ease the catching burden.
“He caught more doubleheaders last year,” Halter said. “This year, we’ve been able to keep him fresher offensively and energy-wise.”
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Ries is a career .345 hitter, batting .382 this season and .388 as a sophomore. He is among the top three Saints in hits (29), RBIs (24), runs (24), on-base percentage (.505) and batting average. He has 18 extra-base hits, including four home runs and six triples, tied for first in 3A.
The opposition’s run game struggles against Ries. He has thrown five runners out this season, giving him 23 in his career (almost half the attempted base stealers).
Ries wrestled for Xavier but Halter said baseball is his biggest passion.
“He’s a baseball guy,” Halter said. “He plays in the fall. He plays in the spring. He is working over the winter.
“He is learning the game. In the last year, his understanding of the game, how to set up on the plate and work hitters has improved.”
Ries and Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s Drake Frazier will join former Solon prep Luke Ira at SDSU. Halter said Ries will be able to make the transition and evolve at the next level.
“He has huge power potential,” Halter said. “He can use all fields. He will become more of a well-rounded player. He will develop and fine-tune his game even more.”
Liberty's Nolan Frey atop 4A in hits
Iowa City Liberty junior Nolan Frey leads Class 4A in hits with 42. He owns a .424 batting average, including 11 doubles, five triples and 30 RBIs. Frey finished last season with 29 hits and batted more than .130 points lower.
“Nolan is having a great year,” Liberty Coach Tom Cronk said. “He worked hard in the weight room and it has translated into better bat speed and increased confidence. He has matured and has had a better approach at the plate, understanding what his strengths are.”
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Frey has been on a recent tear, increasing his current hit streak to seven straight games. He has at least one hit in eight of the last nine, tallying 14 total hits in that stretch. Frey had at least two hits in five of those games, recording a three-hit performance Saturday against Muscatine.
Previously this season, Frey hit safely in seven out of an eight-game stretch from May 31 to June 10. He also went 5-for-5 against Cedar Falls in the fourth game of the season.
Liberty is 15-13 and the No. 2-seed in 4A Substate 7 behind fifth-ranked West Des Moines Dowling. The Lightning open the postseason against Cedar Rapids Washington at Mount Mercy’s Plaster Athletic Complex on July 22.
South Winn repeats
South Winneshiek captured its second straight Upper Iowa Conference title. The Warriors swept Clayton Ridge/Central, 15-0 and 11-1, Monday. They improved to 23-9 overall and 11-1 in the UIC, securing the championship over runner-up Lansing Kee.
South Winn is ninth in 1A with 236 runs, averaging 7.6 per game. The Warriors are eighth with a 2.14 team earned-run average. They have allowed just four earned runs with a 0.40 ERA in conference play.
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