South Winneshiek's baseball team has produced its best start since 2014.
The Warriors returned 11 letterwinners and all but one player from last year’s state quarterfinal team. They have their sights set on another postseason run that ends in Des Moines, which would be the program’s third state tournament appearance and first back-to-back trips.
“They have big expectations and high goals for themselves and the program,” South Winn Coach Alex Smith said. “I tell them our goal every year is to play our best baseball at the end of the season and hope for the best.
“It fuels their motivation to get back down to state. It is somewhere they want to see themselves and that experience brings them a great deal of confidence.”
The Warriors are ranked fourth in Class 1A by the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association, opening with an 8-0 mark. Strong pitching and defense has limited teams to less than a run a game, while the offense scores at a 7.5 clip.
Smith said the players like being on the diamond and welcome the compact schedule.
“We’ve played a lot of games in a short period of time,” said Smith, noting the Warriors started 18-0 in 2014. “With the group we had coming back, I felt we would be ready for playing good competition and playing a lot. In lieu of the circumstances, I wanted to make sure our seniors got an opportunity to play as much baseball as they could in their final season.
“We knew going in pitching depth was going to be a strength of ours. I think for success early in the season pitching and defense is going to be most important.”
South Winn has played up to 12 players, trying to determine its best lineup. The Warriors have depth and balance highlighted by a strong senior class.
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Jaron Todd has a team-high 12 hits with a .545 batting average and .633 on-base percentage. Noah Tieskoetter leads the Warriors with 12 runs and has 11 hits. Kody Kleve and Seth Greve are tops in RBIs with nine and eight, respectively.
Tieskoetter is also 3-0 with a 0.47 earned-run average, pitching four no-hit innings and earning the win in an 11-0 victory over North Fayette Valley on Tuesday. Todd has secured two saves as well.
Seniors are businesslike in their approach. They have experience and have embraced being leaders. Smith said seniors know what is expected, what to do and how to do it.
“The seniors have been around so long that I joke that they should have already graduated,” Smith said with a laugh. “I feel the way they think about the game, the questions they ask and how they coach themselves ... they can handle things on their own.
“They love playing baseball. They want to succeed in it.
Home sweet home for Liberty
For the first time in three years of its existence, Iowa City Liberty has its own home baseball field. The Lightning now have a facility on the school grounds just north of the softball field and football stadium.
Last season, Liberty played its home games at Mount Mercy University’s Plaster Athletic Complex. No more commuting to host opponents, including some who had a shorter trip to the field.
“We don’t have to bus every time,” Liberty senior Tyler Dahm said. “It’s beautiful. It’s awesome.
“Just having all of our fans here. They don’t have to travel 30 minutes to go to a home game.”
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The Lightning received votes in the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 4A preseason rankings and are 5-1 overall. They own a 4-1 home record during a seven-game home stand that concludes with a Mississippi Valley Conference doubleheader against Cedar Rapids Kennedy (4-0) Thursday.
“We take good care of this field,” Dahm said. “It’s great to have this environment, especially in North Liberty. We have a really good community.”
Prairie breaks out
Cedar Rapids Prairie broke into the win column Tuesday and did it in impressive fashion. The Hawks racked up 26 runs on 23 hits in a doubleheader sweep over Cedar Rapids Washington.
Prairie improved to 2-2, posting 12-2 and 14-2 victories. The Hawks tallied 10 hits, including two apiece from Bronx Lewis, Zach Barden and Caden Richards. Lewis, Barden and Caden Harrison each scored twice.
In the nightcap, Prairie pounded 13 hits. Lewis and Aiden Moeller had two hits and three RBIs apiece. Barden and Blake Schulte each added two hits. Barden also scored three times.
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