Area baseball will see fitting end
The Early Lead
July 18, 2013
Saturday night will be flush with baseball action among area teams. And if you've been paying attention this summer, that's not a surprise.
It's the postseason. It's district championship time. And four Carroll County teams will be playing for a title and a chance to move on to substate.
And of the other four that won't be, one (Carroll) doesn't begin district play until Friday, when it opens against Denison-Schleswig, two (East Sac County and Glidden-Ralston) were eliminated by fellow county foes in South Central Calhoun and Coon Rapids-Bayard, respectively, and the other will be eliminated this evening in another inter-county matchup between Coon Rapids-Bayard and Ar-We-Va in the district semifinals.
It starts with Kuemper Catholic (26-6), who rebounded from a smoke-and-mirrors laced 1-4 start to win 12 straight and 25 of 27. The Knights are loaded with talent and experience and came into the season poised to make their fourth straight trip to the state tournament. They are two wins away from doing that.
But after Kuemper, there are some surprises.
Beginning with IKM-Manning, who will challenge Kuemper in the 2-A District 16 championship game at Merchants Park in Carroll at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
The Wolves went 12-11 a year ago, but have been infused by the talent of transfer and former Knights player Casey Berg. The senior has been a key addition to the Wolves' pitching staff and lineup. In eight starts this season Berg has a 5-2 record and a 1.42 earned-run average with 66 strikeouts and just 23 walks in 49 1/3 innings. He's also been a staple in the IKM-Manning lineup, usually batting third, and boasts a .452 batting average, .600 on-base percentage and .871 slugging percentage with six home runs and 34 RBI.
With Berg in the fray, the Wolves went 17-5 in the regular season and won the Western Valley Conference south division championship with an 8-0 record.
Fittingly, it's Berg who is likely to toe the rubber against his old team Saturday night with a chance to pitch his new team to a district championship.
If IKM-Manning (18-5) is a surprise, South Central Calhoun (17-8) is a shocker. The Titans went 10-17 a season ago and came into this season with their fourth coach in four years in Matt Carlson. All Carlson has done is taken a team that starts four freshmen and features just five seniors, only three of which play regularly, and turned it into a 17-win team who is a victory away from a district championship.
South Central Calhoun (17-8) will face the difficult task of knocking off Maple Valley-Anthon Oto (26-5) on its home field at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Coon Rapids-Bayard (25-10) and Ar-We-Va (11-7) will decide who the fourth county team playing for a district title is in the semifinals tonight in Coon Rapids at 7 p.m.
While the peripherals tell you the Crusaders should have fallen off from their 26-win mark from last year because of roster turnover and a bevy of youth in the lineup, they are in position to better that win total if they can capture an 11th district title.
With John Waddle still at the helm, almost no one in the coaching ranks is surprised by this development.
Ar-We-Va is the wild card in the equation. The Rockets played just 17 regular season games and won 10 of them. They started three eighth graders and three seniors in their district-opening win over Glidden-Ralston on Tuesday.
While Coon Rapids-Bayard looks to be the favorite as the fourth team playing for a district title in the area, Ar-We-Va will be an intriguing team in 1A for the next few years.
Area softball and baseball provided an unknown for what was to come this summer and while softball played out somewhat as expected with just three teams posting winning records and none advancing to the their respected regional championship games, baseball furnished some surprise.
Six squads posted winning records, currently combining for a record of 112-38, and four of them will have a chance to put themselves a step away from the state tournament.
I can't think of a more appropriate way to end an extremely successful summer on the baseball diamond.
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