Prep Baseball

Iowa high school baseball notes: The next Hilmer steps up for North Linn

West Des Moines Dowling cancels season; South Winneshiek sweeps UIC

North Linn's Jake Hilmer (1) and his brother Austin Hilmer (3) celebrate as they both score runs in the sixth inning dur
North Linn's Jake Hilmer (1) and his brother Austin Hilmer (3) celebrate as they both score runs in the sixth inning during a Class 2A state baseball tournament semifinal game against Des Moines Christian at Principal Park in Des Moines on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. (The Gazette)

TROY MILLS — North Linn baseball coach Travis Griffith knows how to humble Austin Hilmer.

Sometimes when the Lynx sophomore makes a good play or in passing Griffith will utter, “Jake’s still my favorite,” referring to Hilmer’s record-setting older brother who graduated after last season.

Hilmer has the unenviable task of following in his sibling’s footsteps as a leader for the North Linn baseball team. In all seriousness, he has stepped out of his brother’s shadow and grasped the reigns this season.

“He stepped in as our obvious leader,” Griffith said. “The kids gravitate to him. They know he’s our best player.”

Hilmer ranks among the team’s best in most offensive categories and owns a 5-0 record for the Class 2A second-ranked Lynx before Wednesday’s game against Hudson. North Linn is 14-2 overall and is the top district seed after a state runner-up finish last season.

“I think we’re playing really well,” Hilmer said. “We lost three great seniors from last year, but I think so far we’ve been playing really well. We’re looking forward to the tournament and seeing what we can do.”

Jake Hilmer, Trevor Boge and David Seber were three key figures in the program the last five seasons. They all influenced the younger Hilmer, but it was his brother that helped him develop his instincts and taught him the most

“I learned from him and that’s how I got so good at it,” Austin said. “Jake and all those seniors the last two years helped me a ton. I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for all of them.”

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Griffith noted that it isn’t easy for a sophomore to assume the duties normally assigned to upperclassmen. The younger players, including five freshmen and eighth-graders, look to Austin to be the vocal leader.

“There are always a lot of expectations for us to do well still,” Griffith said. “He’s a different kid than Jake, but does a good job of working with younger kids.

“Austin is a lot more emotional, especially on the field, than Jake ever was. It’s just the way he is.”

Styles might be different, but they share some similar skills. Austin has the same knack of getting on base to start a game and getting within 90 feet before the next batter has finished. Against Midland, he reached on an infield single, advanced to second on an error, stole third and then scored on a groundout.

“We’re deadly when Hilmer is on base,” Griffith said. “He can move himself and we have guys behind him who can hit him in. We rely on that an awful lot.”

Hilmer bats .448 with a .529 batting average. He leads the Lynx with 26 hits, 25 stolen bases and 28 runs, setting the table for Parker Bechen and Lucas Voss, who are tied with a team-high 23 RBIs. He tries to provide that spark in the leadoff spot.

Read more: Parker Bechen persevered horrific injury to help lead No. 2-ranked North Linn baseball team

“I try to start the game with a hit and get on base,” Hilmer said. “Once I get on the base paths I think that’s an advantage for us because I can get around them pretty fast. I think I do a good job of that. My big role on the team is to get on base and runs on the board for us.”

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Top-ranked Dowling done

West Des Moines Dowling announced Wednesday that it is canceling the remainder of its baseball and softball seasons due to a positive COVID-19 test. The Maroons baseball team was 16-2 and ranked first in Class 4A by the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association.

According to multiple reports, one of the Dowling coaches tested positive.

“An individual in close contact with the varsity baseball team has tested positive for COVID-19,” Dowling Athletics Director Tom Wilson told WHO-TV’s Mark Freund. “We are following Polk County Health protocols and are suspending play for all levels of Dowling Catholic baseball and softball effective immediately. Due to the given timeframe, this makes it necessary for us to end the season. We are working closely with public health officials as we continue to monitor the situation.”

Dowling is just the second Iowa High School Athletic Association program that started the season to end it early. Storm Lake St. Mary’s announced its cancellation on July 3.

According to IHSAA Communications Director Chris Cuellar, nine other teams have been or currently are suspended or quarantined.

South Winn sweeps UIC

South Winneshiek capped a perfect Upper Iowa Conference season with a 13-3 victory over MFL MarMac Tuesday. The Warriors finished fourth in the IHSBCA 1A rankings. They are 15-0 overall and have produced the program’s best start since going 18-0 to open 2014.

In addition to South Winn, Alburnett was fifth and HLV was 10th in the final 1A coaches poll. Mid-Prairie was sixth in 2A.

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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