Predictions and 8 storylines to follow at the 2022 Iowa high school state baseball tournaments

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

It’s been nearly a decade since an Iowa high school baseball team has gone an entire summer season without a loss, but entering the July 18-22 state tournaments, two teams are just three wins away from that monumental feat.

Both Van Meter and Remsen St. Mary’s are just three wins from perfect seasons. Van Meter, the No. 1 seed in Class 2A, is 36-0. St. Mary's, Class 1A’s top-seeded team, is 33-0.

Iowa’s last undefeated baseball team was Twin Cedars, which went 36-0 and captured the Class 1A state title in 2014. All-time, just 11 teams have posted perfect summer baseball seasons.

Five came during the single-class era between 1946-72:

  • Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson, 18-0 in 1953
  • Muscatine, 21-0 in 1957
  • Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson, 23-0 in 1960
  • Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson, 18-0 in 1962
  • Dyersville Beckman Catholic, 21-0 in 1968

One during the two-class era between 1973-80:

  • Kee, 47-0 in Class 1A in 1973

And the rest during the four-class era from 1981 through this season:

  • Wilton, 42-0 in Class 2A in 2005
  • Johnston, 40-0 in Class 4A in 2008
  • Martensdale St. Marys, 43-0 in Class 1A in 2010
  • Martensdale St. Marys, 44-0 in Class 1A in 2011
  • Twin Cedars, 36-0 in Class 1A in 2014
Van Meter's Reese Moore has hit 14 home runs this season, which ties for the most in the state.

Van Meter has barreled through its competition this summer. The Bulldogs are 2A team leaders in batting average (.397), home runs (27), runs scored (416); are second in fielding percentage (.958); and third in team ERA (2.21) and total runs allowed (80). They face the hometown team Kuemper Catholic in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

More:Iowa high school state baseball tournament to stay in Carroll and Iowa City through 2024

Remsen St. Mary's has been just as dominant, the 1A leaders in team ERA (0.60), fielding percentage (.971), total runs allowed (40), and fewest errors committed (23); third in team batting average (.398); and fifth in runs scored (333). The Hawks will face a dangerous South Winneshiek team in Monday’s quarterfinals.

Both teams are the favorites to win their respective classes. The Hawks must win three games in five days while the Bulldogs face the daunting task of winning three games in four days.

All eyes will be on Merchants Park in Carroll to see if these two teams can complete a run to history.

Here are seven more storylines to follow during the 2022 state baseball championships:

Van Meter seeks rare four-peat

If the Bulldogs can complete an undefeated season, they would also win a fourth consecutive Class 2A state championship. Only three other schools in state history have won four straight state baseball titles:

  • Norway, 1981-84 (all Class 1A)
  • Kee, 1989-92 (’89-91 in 2A, 92 in 1A)
  • West Des Moines Valley, 2003-06 (all 4A)

Over the last four years, Van Meter is a staggering 124-12 — 34-3 in 2019, 23-2 in 2020, 31-7 last year, and now 36-0 this summer. That includes a 51-game winning streak.

They’ll make history if that winning streak can reach 54 at Merchants Park this week.

More:Iowa state baseball: Van Meter downs Centerville for third straight Class 2A state title

Johnston dynasty

Johnston has been Class 4A’s top team over the last four years.

Entering this week’s Class 4A state tournament at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City, Johnston is seeking a fourth consecutive trip to the championship game. The Dragons won the title in 2020, and finished second in both 2019 and 2021.

Dating to 2013, Johnston has qualified for state nine times in 10 years, and has reached the state finals five times in that span, winning titles in 2013 and 2017 to go along with the last three seasons.

This year, the Dragons again enter the week as the 1-seed in 4A, with a 33-4 overall record, and open against eighth-seeded Iowa City Liberty in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round.

More:Iowa state baseball: Pleasant Valley denies Johnston's repeat bid in Class 4A title game

The Johnston baseball team has reached the Class 4A state championship game each of the last three years. The Dragons won the title in 2020 and took second in both 2019 and 2021.

First-time qualifiers

Two teams in the Class 4A field will be making their state tournament debuts this week.

Iowa City Liberty, which opened in August 2017, qualified for the 4A state tournament for the first time in school history. The Lightning enter at 21-19 overall after knocking off Pleasant Valley, the defending 4A state champs, in the substate finals.

Waukee Northwest qualified in its first year of existence. The Wolves are 26-12 overall after beating West Des Moines Valley, 1-0, in last week’s substate final. They’ll play crosstown rival Waukee in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

More baseball:20 years later: Inside the ‘crazy’ national home run chase by 2 Iowa high school stars

Hometown teams

Three teams will get the benefit of playing in their hometowns at the state tournaments this week.

The Class 4A tournament is being held at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City, and both Liberty and Iowa City High qualified this week. Liberty is just 6.2 miles away from Duane Banks while City High is just 3.2 miles away.

In Class 2A, Kuemper Catholic qualified for the first time since 2017, and will have to travel just a mile to play at Merchants Park in Carroll. Back in 2001, Kuemper qualified for the 3A state baseball tournament held at Carroll Stadium (the Knights went 0-1).

There have been six instances in which a hometown team won a summer state baseball title. In 1967, Boone beat Newman Catholic in the finals at Memorial Park in Boone. Marshalltown won the other five times — in 1976, 1981, 1985, 1986, and 2002.

More:Baseball: Top-ranked Johnston outlasts Ankeny Centennial in substate final on walk-off walk

South Winneshiek’s stellar pitching

South Winneshiek hasn’t allowed a run in four postseason games, outscoring its opponents 16-0, including a 2-0 win over fourth-ranked Kee in the substate final. The key has been great defense and stellar pitching.

The Warriors enter the Class 1A state tournament with a lethal pitching staff, with four pitchers who have sub-two ERAs while having pitched 15 innings or more during the season.

  • Lane Quandahl, 0.82 ERA, 20 strikeouts over 17 innings
  • Keagen Streeter, 0.83 ERA, 102 strikeouts over 69 innings
  • Nick Holien, 0.95 ERA, 69 strikeouts over 44.1 innings
  • Jordan Bucheit, 1.40 ERA, 51 strikeouts over 35 innings

Pretty, pretty good.

Holien and Bucheit tag-teamed South Winneshiek’s 10-0 win over Riceville, then Streeter handled Rockford with 13 strikeouts and 1 hit allowed over 7 innings in a 2-0 win.

Holien again took the mound and struck out 13 and allowed 2 hits over 7 innings in another 2-0 win over Nashua-Plainfield, then Streeter lifted the Warriors to a 2-0 win over Kee with an 8-strikeout, 2-hit, complete-game pitching performance.

Up next for South Winneshiek is top-ranked and undefeated Remsen.

No pressure.

More:Baseball: Van Meter’s unbeaten season continues with substate final win over Pocahontas Area

Power hitters

Six of the state’s top 12 home run leaders will be playing at the state tournaments this week.

Van Meter’s Reese Moore enters the 2A state tournament tied for the state lead with 14 home runs. CAM’s Lane Spieker is right behind with 13 (Spieker is also a talented pitcher for CAM, with a 0.64 ERA and 85 strikeouts over 43.2 innings pitched).

In Class 3A, Independence’s Mitchell Johnson enters with 11 homers, a total that included a stretch of 9 homers in 6 games over 9 days. West Delaware’s Luke Kehrli enters with 9 dingers, his latest coming against Maquoketa in substate play.

In Class 4A, Dowling’s Trever Baumler enters with 11 home runs, the most in Iowa’s largest class. As a team, the Maroons have hit 33 home runs, the most of any team in the state. Indianola’s Brady Blake has hit 9 homers this season, including two in the postseason, one each against Ottumwa and Urbandale in substate play.

Future Hawkeyes playing at Duane Banks

Two future Iowa baseball players will get a chance to play at Duane Banks Field this week — and they both play for Iowa City High.

Cade Obermueller and Gable Mitchell, two key contributors to the second-ranked Little Hawks, both signed as part of the Iowa baseball team's 2022 signing class. Mitchell is a shortstop who's hitting .477 with 28 RBI. Obermueller is a left-handed pitcher with a 1.20 ERA and 98 strikeouts over 46.2 innings pitched who's also receiving draft interest.

Four other future Hawkeye baseball players will be in action this week, but at Merchants Park in Carroll. Van Meter's Moore, a catcher, signed as part of Iowa's 2022 recruiting class while Mid-Prairie sophomore Karson Grout and Newman juniors Doug Taylor and Max Burt are all currently committed to Rick Heller and the Hawkeyes.

Newman Catholic's Doug Taylor has been one of the state's best baseball players since he joined Newman's varsity lineup as an eighth-grader.

So … who wins?

Here are our championships picks for this week:

Class 4A: Johnston

Class 4A is perhaps the most wide open of any class, and the prospect of winning three games over four days is a daunting task. These Dragons are plenty deep and more than capable.

Class 3A: Davenport Assumption

A deep pitching staff and plenty of talented hitters up-and-down the lineup makes the top-seeded-but-second-ranked Knights the top choice.

Class 2A: Van Meter

It will take a monster effort for any team to silence Van Meter's strong bats and find enough hits off their talented pitching staff over the course of seven innings to beat the Bulldogs.

Class 1A: Newman Catholic

Newman has enough postseason experience with guys like Doug Taylor and Max Burt to finish ahead of mighty Remsen. 

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.