The Granville-Spalding baseball team has already dispatched one Northwest Conference team on what it hopes will be a run to its third state title in the past five years, but another one awaits the War Eagles Wednesday in Carroll.
Granville-Spalding defeated Alta 16-6 in Granville Thursday night in a substate game, improving to 25-9 and advancing to the Class 1A Iowa State Tournament.
Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Carroll Stadium in Carroll, sixth-ranked Newell-Fonda awaits the War Eagles in a state tourney quarterfinal.
The Mustangs substate game was closer, as they beat crafty Sentral-Fenton lefty Jeff Struecker and the Spartans 2-1 in a pitchers duel that N-F's ace righthander Matt Stauter won. With the win, Newell-Fonda, seeded sixth at state (Granville-Spalding is the third seed), improved to 28-6.
"It's a pretty good matchup on paper for us," said Newell-Fonda coach Del Rieman. "A key for us will be to swing the bats well early. I think that will help our kids relax a little more both at the plate and in the field."
The Mustangs have shown they can win low-scoring games as well as high-scoring games, but Rieman knows it's essential that his team hits better Wednesday than it did last Thursday against Sentral-Fenton.
"Granville-Spalding doesn't have a lot of power hitters but they make good contact and have a good lineup from one through nine," he said. "In order to win, we'll definitely have to score some runs."
Both teams have considerable state tournament experience. Granville-Spalding was the Class 1A runner up last year but lost five starters off that team. Most of Newell-Fonda's baseball players have been to state this season in either football, basketball, golf, track or baseball.
"I saw Newell-Fonda beat LeMars-Gehlen in a substate basketball game last March and was impressed with their athletes," said 32-year Granville-Spalding coach Bill Wuebker. "Their baseball team is a very athletic group that has outstanding pitching, hitting and defense."
As of Sunday night, Rieman didn't know whether he would throw Stauter or junior righthander Tim Seagren against the War Eagles. Stauter gave up just two hits to Sentral-Fenton Thursday night in posting the mound win.
Stauter enters the state tournament with a 9-2 mark and a 1.80 earned run average. He's given up just 53 hits in 78 innings-pitched.
Seagren has been equally impressive this season. He enters state tourney action with a 9-1 mark and having given up just 51 hits and 21 walks in 70 innings-pitched. He's logged a 1.40 ERA thus far.
"We have confidence in both Matt and Tim; they are both good pitchers," Rieman said. "I'm not saying I'm leaning one way or the other, but Matt is such a strong defensive shortstop when he's there and not pitching. We won't make a decision until Monday or Tuesday."
Wuebker wouldn't say who he would start Wednesday, but his ace all season has been righthander Derreck Jungers. The senior enters the game with an 8-2 mark and a 1.35 earned run average.
According to Rieman, none of Granville-Spalding pitchers is either hard-throwing or dominant.
"But they have three or four guys who all know how to throw strikes and Granville's biggest strength is their defense," he said. "They're a fundamentally sound team that always seems to peak at tournament time. They were state runners up last summer and have a rich baseball tradition so we know we'll have our hands full."
Much could depend on whether Newell-Fonda regains the offensive punch that was missing Thursday night against Sentral Fenton.
The statistics point to the Mustangs breaking out of it, sooner than later.
The first five hitters in the Newell-Fonda lineup are all hitting over .330. Leadoff hitter Joseph Noethe is batting .350 and has set the table well, scoring 32 runs and stealing 12 bases.
Stauter, who bats second, is hitting .360 with 28 runs-scored and 18 stolen bases while third-place hitter Beau Artist his batting .337 with 32 RBI and two homers. Cleanup hitter Jake Schnell is batting .397 with 35 RBI while catcher Joe Miller is hitting .370 with a team-leading 37 RBI and seven doubles.
According to Wuebker, his team relies on putting the ball in play on offense along with a lot of hit and running and moving runners over.
"A key for us to score runs is simply to make them field the ball," he said. "Our offense has really come around lately but the strength of our ballclub is still our pitchers throwing strikes and team defense."
The War Eagles have indeed been scoring runs in bunches. They opened tourney play with a 7-0 win over George Little Rock before beating Central Lyon 14-2 in the district semis and LeMars Gehlen 10-4 a week ago in the district finals.
The winner of the Newell-Fonda-Granville-Spalding game will take on either second seeded Newman Catholic of Mason City or No. 7 seed Danville. That game will take place Friday at 2 p.m. in Carroll.
In the other state tournament quarterfinal games Wednesday, top seed Martensdale-St. Mary's meets eighth seeded Lisbon while West-Harrison of Mondamin takes on fifth seeded Walnut.
The winners of those two games will meet in semis at noon Friday. The state championship game in slated for 1 p.m. Saturday.