Lisbon had some questions to answer at the start of this high school baseball season.
The Lions had the same expectations from last year’s memorable run that resulted in a state runner-up finish and a 36-1 mark, but they graduated seven talented seniors and named a new head coach.
Lisbon progressed along with the season and enters the postseason with as much momentum as any team, winning seven straight games and 16 of the last 17. The Lions (22-11) host Lone Tree (11-11) in a Class 1A District 7 quarterfinal, following the 5 p.m. game between Midland (16-16) and Springville (10-22) at Lisbon City Park.
“We’re having a lot of fun and are just relaxed,” Lisbon senior Hagen Waters said after a 14-0 five-inning victory over Tipton in the regular-season finale Tuesday. “We’re peaking at the right time, right now. I truly believe that.”
Lisbon had a rough start, going 6-10. About two weeks into the season, the inexperienced Lions dropped seven straight, including to highly-ranked Tri-Rivers Conference foes and schools in larger classes. First-year Lisbon head coach John Tesensky said he encouraged the Lions to be resilient and build on that for the future.
“Facing good teams that were coming after us was hard at time, but we need to grow,” said Tesensky, who replaced Travis Bennett, a Cornell College assistant. “We need those things to happen to us so we could learn from them.”
The Lions responded with more than eight runs per game during the closing stretch. Lisbon is tied for ninth in 1A with 361 hits. Waters leads the team with a .394 batting average and 39 hits. Tyson Scott is second at .364 and 36 with a .474 on-base percentage.
The pitching has come around. Cobe Siebrecht is 5-1 with a 1.09 earned-run average. Scott is 6-1 with a 1.28 ERA, while Waters has added five wins.
“I think it comes down to guys accepting their roles at this point of the season,” Tesensky said. “It helps we have had great pitching performances from our upperclassmen that led the way. Tyson Scott has been a bulldog for us the last couple of starts, too.”
District quarterfinals for 1A and 2A begin Saturday night.
Alburnett finished the season in the same spot it opened it — ranked third in 1A. The Pirates are the lone Gazette-area teams in the final poll. Alburnett was the Tri-Rivers Conference runner-up behind No. 4 Calamus-Wheatland and 2A No. 2 North Linn.
The Pirates will be battle-tested, competing in a tough conference.
“I love that in our conference we have the kind of baseball we have,” Alburnett Coach Ryan Stensland said after a sweep of North Linn. “That just speaks to the strength of our league. That is pretty cool to see in small schools. Sometimes with small schools, people are like ‘Ah, that’s just 1A baseball.’ But we can play good play here. These guys are proving that, too.”
The Pirates (28-5) host East Buchanan (11-18) in the nightcap of two 1A District 9 games. Maquoketa Valley (13-14) and Gladbrook-Reinbeck (15-11) will begin action at 5 p.m.
HLV will host two 1A District 10 games at Victor. BGM (15-11) takes on Montezuma (5-14), starting at 5 p.m. The Warriors (22-3) face Tri-County (1-18) immediately after the opener.
In Class 2A, Tipton and Waukon will host Gazette-area districts. The Tigers (12-16) will host Iowa City Regina (9-21) in 2A District 6. Durant and West Liberty also will play at Tipton, starting at 5 p.m.
Waukon (7-28) hosts Clayton Ridge/Central (4-26) in 2A District 4. North Fayette Valley and Starmont will play Game 1.
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