“Year in Review” Quarter Three: State Baseball, Hall of Fame, and Fall Sports

Time to stretch and get ready for the second half of play as I’m Slaten Swords and we’re in quarter three of this “Year in Review” brought to you by Two Rivers Bank and Trust and it’s time for the sports.

Fireworks, apple pie, and baseball are the prevailing symbols of July and that’s no different for Iowa high school athletics as postseason baseball and softball got underway.

For baseball, in Class 1A Substate 5: District 9, Burlington Notre Dame grabbed on to the top seed and a bye after ending the regular season with a 23-6 record. New London took on Highland in the first round of action and it was a thriller, but first we’ll focus on the teams that did not have quite the run the Nikes experienced.

Winfield-Mt. Union won their opening round game against Louisa-Muscatine 11-3 as Cole Milks smashed a home run and tallied four RBIs. However, their run would be stopped by the Class 2A Substate 5: District 10 #1 seed Van Buren County—more on the Warriors later.

Mt. Pleasant and Fairfield participated in a strange Class 3A Substate 5 first round matchup as the Friday night matchup got rained out with the game tied at 3 with the Panthers up to bat with runners on first and second and two outs in the 8th inning. It was a bases loaded single by Zerek Venghaus that allowed the Panthers to walk it off and move on in the bracket.

Unfortunately, their offense could not keep up with Marion despite a 2 RBI double by Carter Amos, his third of the postseason, along with RBIs by Venghaus, Jake Ensminger, and Payton Walker. The Panthers finished the season with a 13-12 record.

Switching over to softball, Mt. Pleasant and Keokuk participated in a first round postseason matchup and the game fit the billing as a conference rivalry. Unfortunately, it was heartbreak city in Keokuk as the Chiefs walked it off 8-7, on a bases loaded walk. Saige Burchett demolished two home runs in the contest as she accumulated four RBIs with Ella McNamee tallying two RBIs. The Panthers finished the season with a 5-25 record as Keokuk would fall in the next round.

West Burlington managed two extra-inning victories in the postseason, but the Falcons couldn’t overcome Assumption. Lauren Summers was named to the Southeast District Team with her big game coming against Fairfield as she fanned 12 Trojans in the win.

Now, before we get back to Burlington Notre Dame and Van Buren County’s runs through the postseason, we’ll talk about the Southeast Conference awards.

Sticking with softball, Saydee Plummer of Burlington and Leighton Salazar of Washington were named Co-Conference Player of the Year. Plummer tallied an ERA of 1.24 and picked up 12 wins on the season, while Salazar batted 0.550, which led the conference. For Mt. Pleasant, Emma Starr was named 2nd Team All-Conference after knocking home 10 runs. Addison Clark and Kynlee White were tabbed All-Conference Honorable Mentions.

For baseball, Fairfield’s Tate Allen took home Conference Player of the Year with a 0.316 batting average and a 2.03 ERA on the mound. For the Panthers, Venghaus was the lone 1st Team All-Conference member as the senior hit 0.371 on the year along with pitching a 2.07 ERA.

Carter Amos, Payton Walker, Ben Newton, and Jake Ensminger were all named to the All-Conference 2nd Team. Amos hit for a team leading 24 RBIs and tied for the team lead in home runs with two along with Walker. Walker also hit 0.312 and brought in 15 runs. Ensminger finished the season with 13 RBIs and 2 wins on the mound. J.C. Sitar and Payson Coleman earned All-Conference Honorable Mentions.

Circling back to New London’s matchup with Highland, the Tigers picked up the upset victory as Brendan Richey pitched a complete game shutout and Michael Raines took advantage of a passed ball to give New London the 1-0 victory.

This would set up a meeting with Burlington Notre Dame and the Nikes would take advantage of errors and a Hunter Shipley masterclass on the mound as he allowed only two hits on the night. Caden Schwenker had a bases loaded triple and Eli Olsen provided the other big hit of the game.

The rest of the Nikes run would lean on the magical, if not, stressful side. In the district championship, Moravia had Burlington Notre Dame on the ropes with the Mohawks holding a 3 to 1 lead in the 7th inning with two outs on the Nikes. Then the rabbit was pulled out from the hat when Spencer Brent reached on an error, then a single by Caden Schwenker, who already had an RBI an inning before, and a couple more errors led to Brent scoring and bringing the game within one, 3 to 2. Another error, a single, and a walk had the game locked at 3. Two passed balls led to Logan Brent crossing home plate for the walk off.

The substate championship saw the Nikes take an early 4-0 lead with a Logan Brent RBI single being an early highlight against Hillcrest Academy. But the Ravens would not make things easy as they pushed across three runs, while keeping the Nikes off the board. Right when the Ravens seemed poised to tie the game, a 5-4-3 double play secured Burlington Notre Dame’s 9th trip to the state tournament. Unfortunately, the Nikes would lose in the quarterfinal against Lisbon to end the season with a 26-7 record. But head coach Chris Chiprez had an optimistic view after the game.

Class 2A saw head coach Chad Scott’s Van Buren County squad experience their own magical run with a dominating 12-0 win over Winfield-Mt. Union to start their tournament with Anthony Duncan, Tyler Stoltz, and Dylan Richardson each notching 2 RBIs.

Mid-Prairie almost brought a premature end to the Warriors season when they took a 4-3 lead into the final inning; however, the Warriors managed to score three runs as Jackson Manning shut down the Golden Hawks to win 6-4 and move on to the state tournament. Manning clocked a two-RBI double in the win.

Their comeback attempt against West Lyon would come up short in the quarterfinal round as the Warriors would fall 6-5, despite some excellent relief work by Richardson and Lucas Fett. Van Buren County finished the season with a 26-4 record, their first time winning 20 games in a season since the 2016 season. It was also their fourth time making it to the state tournament.

At the conclusion of the season, the Iowa Baseball Coaches Association handed out awards for the Southeast District team and here’s who made the team.

Van Buren County had three individuals make the 1st Team. Lucas Fett, a junior, earned the honors as a second baseman with a 0.378 batting average on the season with two home runs and 21 RBIs.

Taylor Sprouse was nominated as a pitcher after finishing with a 6-2 record on the season with a 2.33 ERA that saw him notch 60 strikeouts in 51 innings of work.

Lastly, Jackson Manning earned a spot as a utility player. The senior clobbered the ball as he finished the season with a 0.522 batting average, tallied 15 doubles, 4 triples, 2 home runs, and a state leading 60 RBIs. He was an efficient reliever with a 1.40 ERA with three saves on the year and a 2-0 record. Additionally, Manning was named 1st Team All-State Academic.

In Class 3A, Mt. Pleasant had two players named to the 2nd Team for the Southeast District. Ben Newton’s 1.36 ERA with 37 strikeouts helped his cause for the pitcher slot. Zerek Venghaus was named a utility player after his 0.372 average at the plate with 14 RBIs. He also clinched three wins on the mound with a 3.03 ERA.

Tate Allen was named to the 1st Team for Fairfield with his 0.323 batting average and 5-2 record on the mound. Tallon Bates earned a spot on the 2nd Team. Ethan Patterson for Washington and Brenton Hoard for Keokuk also made the 2nd Team.

For softball in Class 3A, Leighton Salazar of Washington made the 2nd team with Coty Engle, Fairfield, and Ella Greiner, Washington, earning a spot on the 3rd team.

Class 4A was headlined by Burlington’s 8th grade powerhouse Kylee Hill as she earned a spot on the 1st Team. Saydee Plummer secured a spot on the 2nd Team for the Grayhounds.

For the Class 1A Southeast District Team, Mary Hellige of Holy Trinity Catholic earned a spot as she was the ace for the Crusaders. Annabelle Cormier of Van Buren County earned a spot for Class 2A. In Class 3A, Shanna Buford made the All-District team for Central Lee.

Sports would take a short break until the end of August when the fall sport season would get its start as we focus on football first.

Looking around the area, Danville was building a nice resume for a playoff birth after not fielding a team for seven years. Mediapolis found their way into the top ten ranking for Class 2A after a couple of dominant wins. Winfield-Mt. Union and WACO tangoed in a 8-player top-five matchup that saw the Wolves, led by a very talented senior squad headlined by Abram Edwards and Cam Buffington, cruise to a 34-8 victory and an eventual #1 ranking. We’ll hear more from these two teams in quarter four.

One of the more uplifting moments of the season was New London battling back from injuries and finishing out the season after being forced to forfeit a game halfway through the season.

Focusing on volleyball, not only was Holy Trinity Catholic dominating on the court as the Crusaders ended October as the #3 team in Class 1A after winning 18 straight games with talented seniors Natalie Randolph and Mary Kate Bendlage leading the way, but they were also being honored off the court as Mikaela Foecke Richter was a unanimous choice for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Volleyball Hall of Fame. Her senior season was legendary as she tallied 48 wins, a State Championship, Class 1A All-State Tournament Team, 2014-15 Under Armor First Team All-America honoree, and 2014-15 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year.

Since we started with baseball it seems appropriate to end with some baseball as the Iowa High School Athletic Association announced that Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids would be the setting for the 2024 Class 3A and 4A state tournament. 1974 was the last time Cedar Rapids hosted the state baseball tournament.

Quarter three is in the books as we have two more trips to state and winter sports coming up tomorrow as we get ready for the home stretch. I’m Slaten Swords and we thank Two Rivers Bank and Trust for sponsoring “Year in Review.”