Panthers, Hawks prepare for state baseball tournament

Friday, July 15, 2022

The Kingsley-Pierson and Remsen St. Mary’s baseball teams are getting set for the state tournament which begins Monday at Merchants Park in Carroll.

No. 4 North Linn (31-2) vs. No. 5 Kingsley-Pierson (26-4), 11 a.m., Monday

The 4-vs-5 seed matchups are typically the most competitive and interestingly enough, the winner of the 4-vs-5 game has advanced to the 1A state championship in each of the last two years.

In 2020, No. 5 seed Don Bosco won the state championship, coincidentally beating Kingsley-Pierson, who pulled off the upset in the 1-vs-8 matchup, in the semifinals that year.

Last season, Kee played in the championship as the No. 4 seed after beating Remsen St. Mary’s in the semifinals.

North Linn is making their sixth state tournament appearance with all of those within the last decade. Kingsley-Pierson is making their fifth state tournament appearance all time.

Kingsley-Pierson enters state with the best team batting average in the Class at .408. Individually, Conner Beelner leads the team with a .530 batting average with all but one of his 44 hits being singles. Evan Neumann is hitting .514 with 10 of his 55 hits going for extra bases.

North Linn is fifth with a team batting average of .377. Austin Hilmer is the team’s leader on offense. He has 56 hits, 16 of which have gone for extra bases, as he is hitting .519. Hilmer also has 60 stolen bases this season as he recently surpassed his older brother, Jake, for the state’s career stolen base record with 235. The team has a total of 219 stolen bases this season, nearly 100 more than the Panthers have swiped.

Hilmer is also one of the team’s top pitchers with an 8-1 record with 49 strikeouts in 45 innings pitched. Mason Bechen (7-0, 53 Ks in 43 2/3 innings) and Gunner Vanourney (8-0, 51 Ks in 40 2/3 innings) are the team’s other two top pitchers.

The Panthers will counter with a pitching staff which includes Evan Neumann (6-0, 43 Ks in 37 2/3 innings), Boston Doeschot (6-2, 44 Ks in 31 1/3 innings) and Jackson Nissen (6-0, 37 Ks in 29 innings).

K-P Head Coach Taylor Doeschot explained what it’s going to take to be successful.

“I think you’ve got to stay sharp,” Doeschot said. “You’ve got to throw strikes. You’ve got to play defense and you’ve got to hit the ball. I guess when you say it like that it’s simple, but you get into those pressure situations, sometimes things unravel. But these kids have been staying sharp all year. We limit walks, we’ve played really solid defense the last few weeks. The guys are sharp right now.”

No. 1 Remsen St. Mary’s (33-0) vs. No. 8 South Winneshiek (23-8), 1:30 p.m., Monday

Remsen St. Mary’s earned the No. 1 seed in the 1A field for the second year in a row. After losing to Kee in last year’s semifinal round, the Hawks will face off against the team which kept Kee from making a repeat trip to state.

The Hawks are making their seventh straight trip to state while South Winneshiek is making their fourth overall trip. They most recently advanced to state in back-to-back seasons in 2019 and 2020. South Winneshiek has never won a state tournament game.

Remsen St. Mary’s boasts the lowest team ERA in 1A at 0.60, but the Warriors are also one of the better teams in the state as they are fourth in the class with a 1.53 team ERA. Keagan Streeter is one of the team’s top pitchers with 102 strikeouts in 59 innings pitched.

Nick Holien (5-2, 69 Ks in 44 1/3 innings) and Jordan Buchheit (5-0, 51 Ks in 35 innings) are two other pitchers the Hawks could face.

RSM’s options on the mound include Carter Schorg (10-0, 90 Ks in 57 1/3 innings), Isaiah Gerrietts (8-0, 66 Ks in 46 2/3 innings), Jaxon Bunkers (8-0, 53 Ks in 40 innings) and Cael Ortmann (5-0, 52 Ks in 35 innings).

The Warriors are going to have to rely on their pitching as they have a pretty weak offense which is hitting just .258 as a team this season. Sam Conway leads the team with a .317 batting average. RSM’s entire lineup has higher batting averages as the Hawks are hitting .398 as a team.

Remsen St. Mary’s Head Coach Dean Harpenau gave his assessment of the matchup.

“I know they’ve got a Streeter kid who is a good pitcher,” Harpenau said. “They don’t have offensive numbers. I’m going in like we’re playing Kraft and Gehlen. We got to find a way to score two or three runs, that will probably be enough. We’ve got to find a way to do that and one of those things is we’re probably going to have to work on our small-ball. We didn’t execute as well on our small-ball in the substate game and in big games like this, you have to execute the small-ball game. We know we’re going to face a decent pitcher. We’re counting on Carter Schorg to limit them to maybe one run and if we can get two or three, we can get out of that first round.”

The other half of the bracket

On the other side of the bracket, No. 3 seed New London (28-1) will face No. 6 CAM (27-2).

New London is making a repeat trip to state, but it is only their third state tournament all time. CAM also lacks much state tournament experience as their only other trip came in 2017. The winner of this game will pick up their first state tournament victory.

In the last quarterfinal round game, No. 2 seed Newman Catholic (32-3) will face No. 7 Lisbon (24-5).

Newman Catholic returns to the field after having their state record 13 straight appearances snapped last season. They are one of the most decorated programs in state history with eight state titles including three in a row from 2017 to 2019.

Lisbon is making back-to-back trips to state as they are making their ninth overall appearance. Also the No. 7 seed last year, the Lions fell to eventual state champion Council Bluffs St. Albert in the quarterfinal round in 2021.

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