Dike-New Hartford baseball wants to make 1st state trip worth the wait

Dike-New Hartford seniors Drew Sonnenberg (left) and Reece Beuter (center) hold up the state qualifier banner after a 12-0 win against Pocahontas Area in the substate final last Tuesday in Sheffield. (Jake Ryder photo)
Jake Ryder

This article is provided for free to the Dike-New Hartford community in recognition of their support for The Grundy Register as the Wolverine baseball team embarks on a historic first journey to the state baseball tournament. To our current subscribers and advertisers from the Dike-New Hartford district and all around the coverage area, thank you for your support. If you would like to show your support with a subscription, click here to learn more. Subscribers with online accounts will have early access to coverage of this week's state tournament games from Principal Park.

DIKE – The waiting is the hardest part.

Dike-New Hartford baseball's state quarterfinal with Des Moines Christian in Des Moines' Principal Park on Monday night will have been a long time coming as the Wolverines make their first-ever appearance at the state tournament.

D-NH shouldn't be confused with a team on a happy-go-lucky run that's just grateful to be under the lights in Principal Park, though: The Wolverines, winners of the NICL East in five of the last seven seasons, are there to prove they are overdue for a deep run in the state tournament, even as first-timers.

"We're going to keep pushing forward," D-NH senior Reece Beuter said. "We don't want to say, 'Oh, we made the state tournament, we made history, we don't want to do any more.' We want to go as far possible."

Beuter is the likely starter for Monday night's game with the Lions. He carries a 3-1 record into Monday's game, allowing seven earned runs in 28 innings pitched with 54 strikeouts and 11 walks this season.

Des Moines Christian will counter with a potent pitching staff, led by probable starter Kole Bradley, who struck out eight with one earned run on three hits in a substate final against Panorama last week. Bradley's ERA is 0.66. Both teams will have a deep pitching staff that they can go to if necessary.

"They're going to try and win a low-scoring game and we don't mind playing those games either," D-NH head coach Sean Leonard said. "We feel like our pitching can match up with theirs, too. They'll hang their hat on some top-end pitching and then playing some pretty clean defense and we're very similar in that regard."

DMC can boast an incredible strength of schedule, playing teams like fellow 2A state qualifiers Van Meter (lost 1-0 on June 30), Treynor (won 12-2 on July 8) and 1A state qualifier Martensdale-St. Marys (won 6-1 on July 10).

The Lions defeated West Marshall 3-2, South Hamilton 6-1 and Panorama 3-2 to reach the state tournament for the second-consecutive season; the Lions were state semifinalists last season before bowing out to North Linn.

D-NH, meanwhile, bashed their way through the postseason after a tight extra-innings matchup with East Marshall to start district play. The Wolverines won the district title with a 9-1 win against Denver, scoring eight runs in the first inning; the Wolverines won the substate final 12-0 in five innings against Pocahontas Area.

"We're all feeling pretty comfortable with ourselves in the box and out on the field," D-NH senior Zach Starbuck said. "That needs to keep going the next few games, just stay comfortable, don't lose your head in the lights and focus on the details, those little things that matter right now."

D-NH's .290 team batting average is the second-lowest among 2A qualifiers – Treynor bats .283 as a team – but only Van Meter committed fewer errors than D-NH this spring and the Wolverines have given up just 43 runs all season.

"Our one through nine batters have been hitting solid ever since the East Marshall game and we're just on a roll right now," D-NH senior Matt Reinicke said. "A lot of us are hungry for more."

Parker Kiewiet hits .391 in the leadoff spot for D-NH and has stolen 15 bases, scoring 27 times this season. Zak Wauters is hitting .373 with six doubles and 20 RBI and Drew Sonnenberg hits .364 with six doubles and 21 RBI. Both Wauters and Sonnenberg have on-base percentages hovering near .500.

"In the dugout, we're always saying just get the job done, find a way," Sonnenberg said. "Keep it simple, two strikes, just put the bat on the ball."

Even in the last year, there's been a lot of waiting for D-NH, as the Wolverines were anxious to get back out on the field after an unexpected district final loss to Roland-Story last July.

"We've been chomping at the bit to get to this season," D-NH head coach Sean Leonard said. "We knew the team we had coming back. We sat there for two months in the spring, not knowing if we were going to play. Then we get to play and you wonder if we're going to finish it."

After all that waiting, the wait that had to feel the longest of them all was the 36 hours necessary to get test results for a member of the Dike-New Hartford coaching staff that had been in contact with someone testing positive for COVID-19. If the test came back positive for that coach, the season would be over.

"The only thing we've really wanted is to finish this on our own terms," Leonard said. "Let us finish it. Whenever it ends, let it be because of something we did."

The result came back negative. The Wolverines played on. And each victory since has brought another piece of history back home.

"It's awesome," D-NH junior Zak Wauters said. "You get texts and calls from everybody around the community no matter what sport they like, they're getting behind us and that's pretty cool to see."

D-NH senior Parker Kiewiet is one of several Wolverines in the dugout that can add a state baseball trip to resumes of excellence in football, basketball and track and field in recent years.

"It's awesome to be in my senior year and be part of something that hasn't been done here before," Kiewiet added.

The Wolverines can't wait to get it started on Monday night.

"Us seniors have been playing together since we were in third grade," Sonnenberg said. "Just a great group of guys to play with this year and I'm happy to go down to Des Moines with them."


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