Breaking Down the Class 4A State Baseball Tournament

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Photo by Jeff Yoder

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

The Matchups

No. 1 Johnston (34-5) vs. Ankeny (21-17)

Top-ranked Johnston rolls in the state tournament riding a 10-game winning streak in which the it has scored double digit runs nine times including each of its past seven games.

Johnston outscored a pair of postseason opponents 29-0 while pounding 23 hits in seven postseason innings.

The Dragons are seeking a second state title in three seasons in their fourth consecutive state tournament after falling to Cedar Rapids Washington in the 4A quarterfinals last season.

Ankeny is back at the state tournament for the first time since 2013 after impressive back-to-back substate wins over ranked opponents.

After holding off Fort Dodge 6-5 in its playoff opener Ankeny downed No. 10 Mason City 9-2 and defeated seventh-ranked Des Moines Roosevelt 16-0 in four innings in the substate final.

Don’t be fooled by the 17 losses, Ankeny went 5-7 against 4A state qualifiers during a challenging regular season schedule.

Ankeny was responsible for half of the regular season losses for Johnston this season going 2-2 against the Dragons.

Three of the four regular season meetings between the two teams were decided by one run including a 1-0 Ankeny win in June in which sophomore Brody Brecht allowed four hits and struck out 11 in 6 1/3 scoreless innings.

No. 6 West Des Moines Dowling (30-11) vs. No. 3 Southeast Polk (30-13)

The second of two all-CIML quarterfinals features two familiar foes meeting for the third time this season.

West Des Moines Dowling won both regular season meetings including a 5-1 win at Southeast Polk in the regular season finale for both teams on July 17.

Southeast Polk lost back-to-back game to 4A qualifiers Johnston and West Des Moines Dowling to end the regular season but rebounded to win three substate games in six days capped by a 6-3 win over fourth-ranked Ankeny Centennial in the substate final.

The Rams are making their first trip to state since winning back-to-back 4A titles in 2014 and 2015.

Southeast Polk ranks seventh in 4A in team batting average (.324) and is fourth in ERA (2.29).

West Des Moines Dowling returns to the state tournament for the second time in three seasons after finishing runner-up in 2017.

The Maroons have posted a 7-7 record against Class 4A state qualifiers this season that includes 4-2 and 5-1 wins over Southeast Polk.

Dowling has won 15 of its last 17 games entering the state tournament and has allowed more than three runs in a game just twice during that stretch.

No. 2 West High (33-7) vs. Pleasant Valley (25-11)

After a brief one-year state tournament hiatus West High returns to principal park seeking a return to the 4A title game.

A state tournament regular over the last decade plus, the Trojans are making their ninth appearance in the past 11 seasons and have played for the 4A championship in five of those trips.

West High has won four straight state tournament openers and hasn’t loss in the quarterfinals since a 10-5 setback to West Des Moines Valley in 2012.  

The Trojans enter as hot as any team in Class 4A having won 13 of their last 14 while scoring 11 runs or more eight times in that stretch.

West High ranks second in 4A in runs per game (8.6) and batting average (.350) trailing only top-ranked Johnston in both categories.

Pleasant Valley returns to the state tournament for the first time since 2003 and is seeking its first win at state since 1980.

The Spartans have won 13 of 14 after a 3-0 eight-inning win over Linn-Mar in the substate final.

West High won a regular season meeting between the two teams 4-0 in Bettendorf all the way back on May 29.

Marcus Morgan struck out eight and allowed three hits in five shutout innings in the 4-0 West High win.

No. 5 Western Dubuque (32-9) vs. No. 9 Urbandale (28-14) 

One of the most intriguing games in the 4A opening round is a rematch of last year’s state semifinal won 7-3 by Urbandale.

The defending champion J-Hawks completed their title run last season with a 3-0 win over Cedar Rapids Washington in the championship to claim their third 4A crown.

If Western Dubuque is going to get past Urbandale and make its own title run the Bobcats will rely heavily on a pitching staff that ranks among the best in the state.

Western Dubuque owns the top team ERA in Class 4A at 1.87 and is led by senior ace Sam Goodman.

Goodman is 6-3 with a .47 ERA and has struck out 56 in 59 2/3 innings while junior Casey Perrenoud is 8-1 with a .88 ERA in a team-high 63 1/3 innings.

Western Dubuque has the ability to put up runs as well, featuring a lineup with six players hitting .311 or better.

Urbandale returns to the state tournament for the third time in four seasons riding a six-game winning streak after outscoring a pair of postseason opponents 12-0.

The J-Hawks are 6-8 against 4A state tournament qualifiers this season with two wins each over West Des Moines Dowling, Ankeny and Johnson.

The Faces

West High: Marcus Morgan, Soph., P/OF: Among the most electric pitchers in the state Morgan has been brilliant in the postseason allowing two runs on three hits while striking out 28 in 13 2/3 innings. The sophomore right-hander is 9-0 with a .65 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings this season and is a .417 hitter with 32 RBI.

Pleasant Valley: Jack Young, Jr., P/3B: Young is 7-1 with a 1.54 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings on the mound and is the top hitter for the Spartans with a .400 batting average and a team-high 30 RBI.

Johnston: Peyton Williams, Sr., 1B: Iowa recruit is the catalyst for the top offensive in 4A with a team-best .496 batting average and 34 extra-base hits including a state-leading 16 home runs. A returning first-team all-state pick Williams leads Johnston with 53 runs and 56 RBI.

Ankeny: Brody Brecht, Soph., P/CF: Brecht leads the Hawks with a .373 batting average and three home runs and is second on the team with 34 runs and 30 RBI while going 6-2 with a 1.96 ERA while striking out 66 in 39 1/3 innings.

Southeast Polk: Evan Martin, Jr., P/OF: A first-team all-state selection last season Martin is hitting .397 with five home runs and a team-high 31 RBI and is also 8-2 with a 1.56 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings.

West Des Moines Dowling: Adam Brauch, Jr., SS: Brauch is hitting .384 and leads the Maroons with 35 runs, 33 RBI and 34 stolen bases.

Western Dubuque: Calvin Harris, Jr., C: Mississippi recruit has put up another monster season despite drawing 46 walks, second most in the state. Harris is hitting .414 with seven home runs and 40 RBI and is 3-1 with a 1.21 ERA in 29 innings.

Urbandale: Gehrig Christensen, Soph., SS: One of the rising stars in Class 4A, Christensen is hitting .430 with 28 RBI and has stolen 11 bases in a breakthrough sophomore season.

The Favorite

Johnston has gone wire-to-wire as the top ranked team in Class 4A and enters as the favorite to win its second title in the past three seasons after falling in the quarterfinals last season.

The Dragons lead 4A in batting average (.390), runs per game (10.4), home runs (35) and fielding percentage (.968) and are second with a 2.05 team ERA.

Johnston has won at least 34 games each of the past three seasons while posting a 109-14 record during that span.

The Forecast

If seeds hold Friday’s semifinals would each feature a pair of conference rematches that would be worth the price of admission.

If top-ranked Johnston can get past eighth-seeded Ankeny in the fifth meeting between the two teams this season the Dragons will earn another CIML rematch with Southeast Polk or Dowling.

Dowling won both meetings with the Rams in the regular season but went 0-4 against Johnston during the year.

West High must take care of business against red-hot Pleasant Valley and Western Dubuque will have its hands full with defending champion Urbandale but the potential of a third meeting between the MVC rivals in the semifinals is intriguing.

If its gets that far, West High swept Western Dubuque in a doubleheader in Farley in June winning 5-4 and 5-1.

The Focus

The CIML has won seven of the last 10 Class 4A state titles and each of the last two after Urbandale defeated Cedar Rapids Washington in the championship game last season.

It is again a CIML heavy field with five of the eight teams hailing from the Central Iowa Metro League.

The last conference other than the CIML to have a 4A champ, the Mississippi Valley Conference, has a pair of teams in the 4A field and both are capable of making title runs.
West High and Western Dubuque both possess the talent and experience to challenge for a title and become the first non-CIML squad to win a title since Cedar Rapids Prairie in 2016.

Over the past three seasons MVC teams are 0-3 against CIML squads in the 4A championship.

Five Fast Facts

* – West High senior Jason Strunk has drawn 41 walks this season, third most in the state, while leading Class 4A with a .636 on-base percentage.

* – In 506 career plate appearances Western Dubuque junior Calvin Harris has drawn 106 walks while striking out just 20 times.

* – West High sophomore ace Marcus Morgan averages 1.8 strikeouts per inning, fanning a 4A-best 94 in 53 2/3 innings.

* – Johnston leads Class 4A in scoring with 10.4 runs per game and has scored double digit runs 23 times this season including each of its last seven games.

* – West High has eight players with 20 or more RBI on the season, the most of any team in Class 4A.

The Schedule

Quarterfinals, July 31

No. 6 West Des Moines Dowling (30-11) vs. No. 3 Southeast Polk (30-13), 11 a.m.

No. 1 Johnson (34-5) vs. Ankeny (21-17), 1:30 p.m.

No. 5 Western Dubuque (32-9) vs. No. 9 Urbandale (28-14), 4:30 p.m.

No. 2 West High (33-7) vs. Pleasant Valley (25-11), 7 p.m.

Semifinals, August 2

West Des Moines Dowling/Southeast Polk winner vs. Johnston/Ankeny winner, 7 p.m.

Western Dubuque/Urbandale winner vs. West High/Pleasant Valley winner, 4:30 p.m.

Championship, August 3

Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.

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