STANWOOD — North Cedar baseball coach Adam Hadenfeldt admitted he considered playing up the underdog role.
He quickly decided against it, opting for the same approach that has helped the Knights make a Cinderella-like postseason run.
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Hadenfeldt said. “At the end of the day, I have a great group of kids. They enjoy being around each other and being at the park.
“We haven’t focused on the underdog role as much as just extending the season. We get to hang out, play ball and be around each other. It’s been a pretty good recipe for us, so far. We hope we can keep that rolling.”
North Cedar has knocked off two straight ranked foes, setting up a Class 1A Substate 4 final showdown with Burlington Notre Dame on Tuesday in Solon, beginning at 7 p.m.
The Knights (7-7) have beaten No. 5 Alburnett and No. 9 Easton Valley on the road, earning a chance to claim their first state baseball tournament berth. The Nikes (13-2) stand in the way.
“We picked a good week to get hot,” Hadenfeldt said. “For whatever reason, things have started to click for the guys. They’ve been playing really loose. It’s carried over. Guys are playing with a lot of confidence.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
North Cedar opened the stretch with a 7-2 victory over Midland, hitting two home runs, which matched its regular-season total. It followed with a 5-3 upset of the Pirates and downed Easton Valley, 3-1.
“We know if we come out ready and have fun we can play with anybody,” senior Tyler Thurston said after the first-round win.
Thurston and Tadan Lange had three-run homers, while Ethan Sahr, Thurston and Chase Miller combined for a three-hitter against Midland. Gage Walshire had three hits and Lange had two RBIs against Alburnett. Tyler Jackson had a double and drove in two in the district final.
Sahr and Thurston have teamed up on the mound in the last two games. Sahr threw 5 2/3 innings against Alburnett and six full against the River Hawks. Thurston has two saves, pitching 2 1/3 total hitless innings.
They are among six regulars who have at least three years of varsity experience and have had success in other sports.
“They haven’t necessarily won a lot of baseball in years past, but they’ve seen a lot of baseball,” said Hadenfeldt, noting a tough River Valley Conference scheduled prepared them for the postseason. “They’ve been in a lot of scenarios on a diamond, but they’re also are the same group that put together pretty good football and basketball seasons for us. Tyler Thurston was a state finalist in wrestling. Guys have been in a lot of situations athletically and started to experience success.
“I’m a firm believer in the more you put yourself in a competitive environment the more comfortable you get in it.”
In other area action Tuesday:
• South Winneshiek has produced one of its best seasons ever. The fourth-ranked Warriors (24-1) captured their second straight Upper Iowa Conference title and are looking for a return to state. They face Saint Ansgar (15-3) at Cresco for the 1A Substate 3 title.
The Saints have won six straight, starting with an 8-4 victory over South Winn on July 6.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
• Both No. 10 HLV (15-0) and No. 7 Don Bosco (16-1) have won 15 straight games, entering the 1A Substate 5 final at Williamsburg. HLV is vying for its first state baseball tournament appearance, while the Dons were state semifinalists a year ago.
• In 2A, No. 2 North Linn (17-2) is attempting to earn its fourth consecutive state trip. The Lynx reached the state finals last season. They play New Hampton (11-9) for the Substate 3 championship at Waverly.
• Sixth-ranked Mid-Prairie (14-3) has posted its best record since 2010. The Golden Hawks take on Central Lee in Substate 5 at Mediapolis, trying to qualify for state for the fifth time and first time since 2007.
• After back-to-back postseason wins over perennial powers Cascade and Dyersville Beckman, Monticello (6-7) is a victory shy of its first state tournament. The Panthers head to Maquoketa for the Substate 4 final against Durant (11-4).
Class 2A substate finals
Substate 1, at Sioux Center: No. 9 West Lyon (13-3) vs. Unity Christian (8-8)
Substate 2, at West Fork: No. 10 Pocahontas Area (16-1) vs. No. 3 Dike-New Hartford (14-3)
Substate 3, at Waverly-Shell Rock: No. 2 North Linn (17-2) vs. New Hampton (11-9)
Substate 4, at Maquoketa: Monticello (6-7) vs. Durant (11-4)
Substate 5, at Mediapolis: No. 6 Mid-Prairie (14-3) vs. Central Lee (11-1)
Substate 6, at Oskaloosa: Cardinal (10-3) vs. No. 1 Van Meter (19-2)
Substate 7, at North Polk: Des Moines Christian (14-6) vs. Panorama (12-3)
Substate 8, at Tri-Center: Treynor (11-7) vs. Carroll Kuemper (14-8)
Class 1A substate finals
Substate 1, at Le Mars Gehlen: No. 2 Remsen St. Mary’s (18-0) vs. Newell-Fonda (16-2)
Substate 2, at Nevada: No. 6 Mason City Newman (16-5) vs. Madrid (10-5)
Substate 3, at Crestwood: Saint Ansgar (15-3) vs. No. 4 South Winneshiek (24-1)
Substate 4, at Solon: North Cedar (7-7) vs. Burlington Notre Dame (13-2)
Substate 5, at Williamsburg: No. 10 HLV (15-0) vs. No. 7 Don Bosco (16-1)
Substate 6, at Creston: No. 1 Martensdale-St. Marys (25-1) vs. Mount Ayr (12-2)
Substate 7, at Clarinda: Anita CAM (15-2) vs. No. 3 Council Bluffs St. Albert (20-1)
Substate 8, at Carroll: Logan-Magnolia (11-2) vs. No. 8 Kingsley-Pierson (14-2)
Comments: (319) 368-8679; email@example.com