Your Prep Sports
The baseball postseason is already nearly a week ago with Classes 1A and 2A getting things started last season.
Things step up a notch on Thursday with the two largest classes opening substate play with 1A and 2A district title games set for Saturday.
By next Wednesday the eight-team state tournament fields in all four classes should be set.
Before opening-round contests in Class 3A and 4A get rolling on Friday here is a quick breakdown of what Your Prep Sports area teams are facing in substate play.
Top seed: Davenport Assumption (23-13)
Ranked teams: No. 8 Davenport Assumption
Breakdown: With three teams with 20 or more wins and four teams above .500 Substate 4 ranks as one of the most balanced postseason fields in Class 3A.
The most anticipated quarterfinal features fifth-seeded Clear Creek Amana (15-16) traveling to fourth-seed Washington (15-13) on Friday evening.
Clear Creek Amana has dropped three in a row and Washington four straight entering the postseason.
Whichever team can right the ship on Friday will likely earn a shot at top-seeded Davenport Assumption which hosts Keokuk (4-29) in the quarterfinals.
The bottom half of the bracket sets up for a stellar semifinal if seeds hold with second-seeded Fort Madison (24-8) hosting Central DeWitt (20-15) on Monday.
What to watch: Coming off a state tournament appearance last season Clear Creek Amana has scuffled at times this year while dealing with injuries to several key players.
Despite its record to be surprised if the Clippers made another postseason push. Senior Brock Reade (2.16 ERA, 54 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings) and sophomore Josh Loren (2.97 ERA, 41 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings) give the Clippers a pair of talented lefties and a nice one-two pitching punch.
Clear Creek Amana upset Davenport Assumption in the substate final last season and could get another meeting with the Knights in the semis this season.
Top seed: Solon (27-11)
Ranked teams: No. 4 Cedar Rapids Xavier; No. 7 Solon;
Breakdown: Substate 5 has all the makings of a two-horse race with Solon and second-seeded Cedar Rapids Xavier (23-12) set up for a winner-take-all matchup in the title game.
Solon (27-11) earned the top seed and has homefield advantage throughout while Xavier won a regular season meeting between the two teams 14-2 in five innings back on July 6.
Both teams need to take care of business early to set up a rematch.
Solon hosts Newton (9-19) on Friday in the quarterfinals and would face the winner of Knoxville (18-18) and Carlisle (15-19) in the semifinals on Monday.
Xavier gets Oskaloosa (7-22) Friday and with a win would face third-seeded Pella (20-15) or Bondurant-Farrar (13-14) in the semifinals.
What to watch: As expected from a pair of the top programs in Class 3A, Solon and Cedar Rapids Xavier both enter the postseason playing well.
Solon picked up a pair of non-conference wins to close the regular season and has won three of its last four while the Saints enter the postseason winners of six of their last seven.
Five of the six wins for Xavier during its late-season surge are against ranked teams including victories over Solon, 3A fifth-ranked Dubuque Wahlert, 4A No. 6 Dubuque Hempstead and 4A No. 7 Cedar Rapids Prairie.
If the two teams meeting again the key could be throwing strikes. Xavier out-hit Solon 10-5 in the regular season meeting but the Saints took advantage of receiving 11 walks while issuing just two.
Top seed: Cedar Rapids Prairie (30-7)
Ranked teams: No. 7 Cedar Rapids Prairie; No. 8 Urbandale
Breakdown: Among the most intriguing substate fields in all of Class 4A, Substate 3 figures to be entertaining from Friday’s opening round all the way through the final.
Five Mississippi Valley Conference are joined by CIML heavy hitter and perennial 4A powerhouse Urbandale to create a strong field.
Cedar Rapids Prairie earned the important top seed and would get a bye to the final with a win over 4-36 Waterloo East on Friday.
West High (21-14) hosts Waterloo West in the opening round. The two teams split a regular season doubleheader in Iowa City in June with West High winning the opener 18-8 and Waterloo West taking game two 16-12.
With senior Marcus Morgan available for West High on Friday don’t expect a similar slugfest this time around.
Second-seeded Urbandale (25-15) hosts Cedar Falls (16-20) in the other opening-round contest and if seeds hold West High would travel to Urbandale on Monday.
What to watch: Marcus Morgan. Let’s not over complicate this – if you are heading out to this one watch Marcus Morgan. The Iowa-bound senior pitcher/outfielder is worth the price of admission. An all-around athlete, the 6-foot-4 Morgan has been outstanding in centerfield, on the mound and in the batters box this season hitting .385 with five homers and 41 RBI and going 3-2 with a 1.41 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings.
Top seed: Pleasant Valley (32-4)
Ranked teams: No. 1 Pleasant Valley
Breakdown: Make no mistake, top-ranked Pleasant Valley is the clear-cut favorite in a field that features four teams with at least 21 wins but the battle for who attempts to upend the Spartans is very much up in the air.
Pleasant Valley needs a win over Cedar Rapids Jefferson (7-32) to reach the final.
Liberty High (24-12), Muscatine (22-14), Cedar Rapids Kennedy (21-15) and Linn-Mar (16-22) could all be the team that is waiting.
Second-seeded Liberty High has homefield advantage on its side, hosting Linn-Mar in the opening round and earning another home game with a win.
Liberty High swept the Lions 3-2 and 11-8 in a doubleheader on June 18.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy travels to Muscatine for the other opening-round match on Friday
What to watch: Liberty High would like nothing more than to have a chance to flip the script on Pleasant Valley after the Spartans downing Liberty High 12-3 in the substate final a year ago.
As always, pitching is the postseason key and Lightning have been solid over the past several weeks.
Liberty High has won 10-of-12 down the stretch and is allowing 2.8 runs per game during that stretch down from 5.1 per game over the season.
Senior Ethan O’Donnell (5-2, 2.83 ERA) and junior Boyd Skelley (6-1, 2.50 ERA) headline a deep Lightning staff that has six players that have thrown at least 16 innings this season.
Top seed: Ottumwa (28-9)
Ranked teams: No. 10 City High
Breakdown: Perhaps the most intriguing of the three area 4A substates the top three seeds have all won at least 26 games.
Ottumwa (28-9) earned the top seed and will host Cedar Rapids Washington (10-27) on Friday.
Second-seeded City High (27-13) hosts Davenport North (16-17) and third seed Burlington (26-6) hosts Davenport Central (13-19) in the other opening-round matchups.
If the top three seeds all win on Friday it sets up for a couple of fantastic matchups for a trip to state.
City High would host Burlington in a rematch of a regular season contest won by the Grayhounds 11-4 on June 22 in Burlington.
Burlington is the hottest team in the substate, winners of 14-of-15 to end the regular season.
What to watch: City High is seeking a return to the state tournament after falling in the 4A quarterfinals a year ago.
Last season City High had to survive an opening-round scare from Cedar Rapids Jefferson on its way to state and the Little Hawks have a challenging road ahead but feature a roster loaded with postseason experience.
The return of junior ace Cade Obermueller would be a big boost for the Little Hawks after the left-hander was limited by an injury down the stretch.
Obermueller is 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings this season but the Little Hawks have plenty of pitching depth behind him including juniors John Klosterman (3-2, 1.89 ERA) and Gavin Koch (3-2, 1.98 ERA) and sophomore Alex Knudtson (4-1, 1.57 ERA).