Your Prep Sports
A normal prep baseball season seems to fly by in a flash.
This summer a wild, coronavirus-shortened regular season that was condensed to four weeks has already come to an end for most area teams.
The postseason has already opened for a pair of area teams with the rest starting playoff action later this week.
With the regular season in the books (almost) we take a look back at what has been the best of an abbreviated season for area teams.
Best individual pitching performance: Chase Becker against North Cedar. Becker was unhittable in what turned out to be the final regular season game for the Regals, tossing five no-hit innings in a 10-0 win over the Knights. The junior right-hander struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter allowing just a hit by pitch in the win.
Best team pitching performance: Liberty High against City High. Four Liberty High hurlers combined to no-hit City High in a 2-0 Lightning win in the season opener for both teams. Keian Secrist worked three innings, Jacob Norris two and Cody Schroeder and Ethan O’Donnell one each as Liberty High pitchers issued just one walk and struck out seven.
Best individual offensive performance: Liberty High junior TJ Kimm vs. Cedar Rapids Xavier. Kimm combined a big-time offensive performance (3-for-3 with four RBI) with excellent timing (a grand slam in an eight-run inning) in a come-from-behind 11-9 win over the Saints. The junior catcher also scored and drew a walk in the win.
Best game: West High against Cedar Rapids Prairie. West High opened the season with a thrilling 2-1 nine-inning road win over Cedar Rapids Prairie as Collin Leavy scored the go-ahead run on a Matthew Cupp squeeze bunt in the top of the ninth inning. The two teams combined for just one error in a brilliantly played season opener.
Best comeback: West Branch against Cascade. The Bears needed to rally twice, first from a 3-0 deficit early and then from a two-run hole in the ninth inning to earn a second straight win over one of the more storied programs in the River Valley Conference. West Branch scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to escape with a 7-6 win over the Cougars in West Branch.
Breakthrough pitcher: Clear Creek Amana junior Brock Reade. Reade went from a solid starter as a sophomore (3-2, 3.38 ERA) to one of the top pitchers in the WAMAC conference this season. The junior left-hander was 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA allowing just nine hits and striking out 23 in 19 innings.
Breakthrough hitter: West Branch junior Cael Fiderlein. Fiderlein followed up a sophomore season that featured five varsity at bats by becoming the most consistent hitter in the Bear lineup as a junior leading the team with a .410 batting average and seven extra base hits including a home run.
Most improved player: Liberty High senior Jacob Norris. Norris raised eyebrows with his pitching prowess as a junior but took his offensive production up a notch this season. A year after hitting .202 with 15 RBI in 99 at bats Norris is hitting a team-high .432 with a team-high eight extra-base hits including a home run and has 10 RBI.
Coach of the year: Nick Zumsande has engineered an impressive turnaround in his first season leading the Clear Creek Amana program helping the Clippers go from 17-20 a year ago to 13-4 this season. The Clippers are 11-3 against WAMAC opponents and will finish more than four games above .500 for the first time in more than a decade.
Most consistent: Regina junior Chase Becker. Becker had a big-time season going 2-0 without allowing an earned run in 12 innings while hitting .438 with a team-leading two home runs and 12 RBI. It was consistency that helped the Minnesota commit to his best season yet as Becker hit safely in 8-of-10 games with five multi-hit games and allowed less than four hits in all three starts.
Unsung hero: Solon senior Cole Arduser. A key leader on a Solon squad loaded with underclassmen and first-year varsity players, Arduser quietly put together a stellar season hitting .375 with a team-high 20 RBI and ranked second on the team in runs (20) and on-base percentage (.507).
Newcomer of the year: West High senior Will Hoeft. A state champion wrestler who will wrestle collegiately at Harvard, Hoeft returned to the diamond for the first time in two seasons and didn’t skip a beat. In his first varsity season, and first baseball of any kind since his sophomore year, Hoeft hit a team-high .425 with three doubles and led West High with nine RBI.
Rookie of the year: Solon eighth-grader Brett White. A true rookie, White made an immediate impact in the first season he was eligible to compete at the high school level hitting .322 with six extra-base hits and tied for third on the team in runs (19) and RBI (13).
Most versatile: West High junior Marcus Morgan. The hard-throwing Morgan is known for his pitching, and rightfully so as the right-hander is one of the best in the state and posted a 1-1 record and 2.88 ERA in 17 innings. However, Morgan is much more than that. He hit .281 with five extra-base hits and seven RBI and his defense in the infield is as good any anyone around.
Biggest under the radar impact: West High senior Ben Vander Leest. Often overshadowed, Vander Leest put together a stellar senior season both at the plate and on the mound. He hit .417 with 12 runs scored and eight RBI and also posted a 4.01 ERA in a team-leading 22 2/3 innings.
Cy Young: City High sophomore Cade Obermueller. An abbreviated preseason made for a tough summer for pitchers but that didn’t stop Obermueller from emerging as a legit ace in his first full season of varsity action. The sophomore left-hander went 2-2 with a 1.91 ERA and allowed just seven hits and struck out 20 in 18 1/3 innings.
Gold glover: City High sophomore Gable Mitchell. Truthfully, Mitchell could fit into just about any of the offensive categories on this list but the smooth sophomore shortstop might just be most valuable to a City High team that prides itself on defense for what he does with his glove. That’s saying something since Mitchell is a .462 hitter this season but his defensive effort is practically unparalleled at the prep level.
Silver slugger: Regina junior Elizer De Los Santos. In his first season of prep baseball De Los Santos proved to be among the best hitters in Class 2A posting a .538 batting average, .657 on-base percentage and .731 slugging percentage while striking out once in 35 plate appearances.
Most valuable player: Clear Creek Amana senior Grant Jensen. There are plenty of reasons Clear Creek Amana is enjoying its best season in more than a decade but perhaps none bigger than the play of its senior lead Jensen.
Jensen has become one of the toughest outs in the state this summer, hitting .517 while leading the Clippers in hits (30), runs (20), doubles (6), RBI (18) and batting average.