By: Trent Condon
Last year the CIML’s run of 5 straight state championships was ended as Cedar Rapids Prairie brought home the hardware. As always, it looks to be another outstanding year across the league. Today we look at the Central Division with predictions on where each team will finish.#1 Ankeny Centennial (22-17 Last season, lost to Ankeny 7-6 in Substate)
A year ago the Jaguars were cruising around at 19-8 and had the look of a team that could make a run to state. The wheels fell off as Centennial lost 9 of 11 down the stretch including getting upset for cross town rival Ankeny in Substate. A big group of juniors saw action last year for the Jags and look to make a move up the standings. 17 seniors and 13 letterwinners are part of this group including catcher Brenden Kuehl (.301, 22 RBI), 1B Jake Gilbert (.301, 4 HR, 20 RBI) SS Jacob Wilson (.278, 5 SB) and outfielders Alex Kopriva (.246, 2 HR, 14 RBI), Dawson DeAngelo (.218, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 9 SB) and Jordan Wilson (.263, 14 RBI, 4 SB). The staff is also experienced with Cam Cowan, Ethan Chips, Reed Pegram, AJ Pierce, Michael Van der Heyden and Gilbert. With the experience and top end pitching, the Jaguars are my pick to take home the division crown.
It looks to be a new look Tigers this year as Valley will look to replace 5 starters and their top 3 pitchers. Head Coach Ryan Cooley also is working on some new philosophies in hitting and pitching. The Tigers will welcome back junior Jevon Mason (.374, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 11 SB) who will patrol center field and is joined by returning senior starters 1B Cole Pederson (.338, 16 RBI), OF Will Rodruck (.348, 3 HR, 21 RBI) and catcher Jacob Morris (.375, 11 RBI). Sam Rogers and Rodruck saw plenty of action on the mound last season and will anchor the staff for 2017. It looks to be another good year for Valley baseball.
Dave Dirkx’s Warriors put together another great season a year ago, knocking off Johnston in the state tournament before falling to the eventual state champion, Cedar Rapids Prairie in the semis. Waukee welcomes back Fischer Henderson (.313, 1 HR, 27 RBI), AJ Shaw (.327, 17 RBI) & Calvin Smith (.260, 1 HR) and look to have a strong rotation lead by Shaw and lefties Smith and Ross Hingst. If the Warriors can find some offense, this has the look of a team that will be a tough out again in 2017.
After winning back to back state championships in 2014 & 2015, it looked as though Southeast Polk was primed to make another run last year, but were upset at home by Des Moines Roosevelt in the Substate Finals. It will be a new look squad for the Rams in 2017 as they lose 17 seniors that were a big part of the success over the past 3 years. First basemen Cole Hassman returns for his senior season after hitting .338 last year with 3 home runs and 40 RBI. Chase Wheeldon also returns as a starter behind the plate. Aaron Lang had a good year as a sophomore (5-1, 2.66 ERA, 29/12 K/BB) and looks to build as an upperclassman along with another junior, Joe Bagley (4-0, 0.88 ERA, 17/7 K/BB). Look for this squad to look better in July than they will in late May.
The Hawks made their season last year after they upended their Ankeny brethren, Centennial, to kick off Substate play before losing a tough 2-1 decision to state qualifier Roosevelt. The Hawks will face a tough division and welcome back juniors Drew Hill (.242, 17 RBI, 8 SB) and Jayden Maifeld (.275, 8 RBI). Ankeny is going to have to see improvements from the rotation in order to move up the pecking order. Nick Hayden, Matt Wiedmier and Jayden Maifeld will look to get first crack at starting games for head coach Joe Balvanz.
Head Coach Eric Bappe has a rebuild on his hands up in Ames. The Little Cyclones return a solid core of hitters in seniors Eric Steyer (.355, 7 RBI), Ethan Hahn (.358, 10 RBI) & junior Tynan Shahidi (.265, 13 RBI). Pitching looks to be the biggest concern again for the Little Cyclones and the shift in divisions will prove to be difficult this year.
Catch High School baseball all season long on the “Marty & Miller” sports network. Trent Condon will provide play by play for the Central Iowa Game of the Week. You can listen to the games at martyandmiller.com or by downloading the “Marty & Miller” app through Google Play or the Apple Store.