Prep Baseball

Alburnett and North Linn move on to substate baseball finals in respective classes

Dream of Linn County teams making it in every class still alive

Alburnett pitcher Keaton Parker (left) talks to catcher Reed Stallman during the fifth inning of their high school baseball game against Lisbon at City Park in Lisbon, Iowa, on Monday, July 2, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Alburnett pitcher Keaton Parker (left) talks to catcher Reed Stallman during the fifth inning of their high school baseball game against Lisbon at City Park in Lisbon, Iowa, on Monday, July 2, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

ALBURNETT — It’s still possible.

Only one time since the state baseball tournament went to four classes in 1981 has Linn County had a representative in each class. Could it happen again this year?

Alburnett and North Linn won their respective district final games Saturday night at home.

Alburnett fell behind in the second inning but scored the final 11 runs to beat North Tama, 11-1, in a Class 1A affair that ended in six innings via mercy rule. North Linn got three runs in the bottom of the first and went on to blank Waterloo Columbus, 9-0, in a 2A district final.

Both of these clubs play substate finals Tuesday night. Fourth-ranked Alburnett (31-5) gets either HLV at Marion, while second-rated North Linn (37-5) draws Pella Christian at Benton Community.

Cedar Rapids Xavier and Marion are still alive in Class 3A, while Linn-Mar and Cedar Rapids Prairie still have state shots in 4A. Cedar Rapids Kennedy (4A), Xavier (3A), Center Point-Urbana (2A) and Alburnett (1A) all made it to the 2006 tourney.

Alburnett seeks its first trip to Des Moines since then. The Pirates lost a substate final last year to Don Bosco.

“We have a lot more experience this time,” said Alburnett ace pitcher Keaton Parker. “We’ve been there, know how it feels.”

Parker was removed with two outs in the fourth and a 3-2 count on a North Tama batter in order to be saved for Tuesday’s game. He threw exactly 65 pitches, the limit allowing him to go full bore in the substate final.

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Caden Evans finished up for him with sparkling relief. Alburnett scored four times in the bottom of the second to counter North Tama’s run, including RBI hits from Kale Rose, Hunter Caves and Austin Huber.

Rose had another run-scoring hit in a sixth-run sixth, with Huber’s two-out, two-run single making it a 10-run spread.

“You didn’t hear much in our dugout early on in the game,” Huber said. “We pushed across a couple runs there, and you started hearing a bunch of random stuff. That’s when you know you have all the momentum.”

North Linn took full advantage of a Columbus error for its very early crooked number. David Seber had a RBI hit and Nathan McEnany a two-run single.

The Lynx scored three more times in the fourth, on a two-run Jake Hilmer double and Austin Hilmer RBI single.

“Yes, I was worried about this game,” North Linn Coach Travis Griffith said. “It depended on which team showed up on both sides. Getting ahead early was big for us. We are a pitching-and-defense team.”

Jake Hilmer threw the first four innings on just 59 pitches, so he is a full go Tuesday night. North Linn made it to state in 1A last season but is attempting to copy its boys’ basketball team by qualifying and winning it all in 2A this season.

“Different sport but a lot of similarities,” Jake Hilmer said. “You learned a lot from the basketball trail because you know in 2A there is just a lot more depth. No gimme games. We saw that in our opening round.”

North Linn escaped Jesup, 2-1, Tuesday night.

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“We hit the ball much better tonight,” said Trevor Boge, who threw the final three innings. “Defensively we can still clean up some things. But we did hit the ball way better tonight.”

North Tama ended its season 21-10, Columbus 25-15-1.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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