Prep Baseball

Nathan 'Buddha' McEnany pitches North Linn back to state baseball tournament

Last year's 2A runners-up return to state with 6-3 win over New Hampton

North Linn celebrates after a substate final win over New Hampton at Hertel Field in Waverly on Tuesday, July 21, 2020.
North Linn celebrates after a substate final win over New Hampton at Hertel Field in Waverly on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

WAVERLY — North Linn’s Nathan McEnany received the lighthearted nickname “Buddha.”

Family called him that for the way he would sit with each foot resting on the opposite when he was young. It stuck.

“Ever since I was a little kid everyone has been calling me that,” McEnany said. “Now, all my teammates have picked it up. Also, they say if you run a Buddha’s belly you have good luck. They do that, too.”

Aptly on Tuesday night, McEnany was Zen-like on the mound for the second-ranked Lynx. The lefty starter pitched 6 2/3 innings of one-hit baseball with nine strikeouts and helped North Linn to a 6-3 victory over New Hampton in the Class 2A Substate 5 championship at Hertel Field.

“Mac is always cool, calm and collected,” North Linn Coach Travis Griffith said. “You can’t rattle him. It doesn’t matter what happens. The demeanor doesn’t change.”

He admitted to some early nerves as New Hampton parlayed a leadoff walk and an error into a 1-0 lead in the first.

The Lynx (18-2) answered with three in the bottom of the first. Consecutive singles for Austin Hilmer and Parker Bechen sparked the offense. McEnany helped himself with an RBI single to plate Hilmer. Alex Sturbaum followed with a line-drive single to left to make it 2-0. Lucas Voss scored on Corbin Woods’ RBI groundout.

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“We came back and put up three right away, so that was some stress relief,” McEnany said. “After the first inning, I felt wonderful. I kept shooting strikes.”

He stifled the Chickasaws with fastballs — a two-seamer that works in on right-handers and away on lefties and a four-seamer with more velocity.

“When the good Mac shows up, that’s what you see,” Griffith said. “He’s got good stuff. He commands the strikes zone.

“The velocity picked back up in the second. He started hitting his spots. When he’s getting (strikeouts looking) that means his two-seamer is diving.”

He held New Hampton hitless through five complete. Brayden Anderson roped a double to lead off the sixth, ending the no-hit bid.

“We were calling it in the dugout,” McEnany said of the no-hit bid. “I was a little mad but at least it was a good hard-hit double.”

The Lynx never trailed, padding their lead in the fourth, capitalizing on two errors for a 5-1 advantage. Ben Wheatley’s RBI single scored Woods for an insurance run in the sixth.

New Hampton tried to rally in the seventh, loading the bases on a hit batsman, error and walk. Ricky Bebensee relieved McEnany and notched the final two outs.

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North Linn was the 2A runner-up a year ago. The graduation of a successful senior class created some question marks, especially in a pandemic-shortened season with four freshmen and a couple sophomores in the lineup. The Lynx answered any doubts that remained from the start of the year.

“We’re playing really good baseball,” Griffith said. “We’re hitting one through nine. We’re hitting a midseason stride at the end of the season.”

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

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