Now we continue our annual Way-Too-Early Preseason rankings as we jump from the Class 4A ranks to the Class 2A world. It was a very exciting season for the 2A ranks in a time where the pinnacle of the season took place at Merchants Park in Carroll. Now without further wait, we continue on with the much anticipated return of the first preseason rankings of the 2022 season.
1.) Van Meter – 2021 Record: 31-7
It was another “Van Meter” type of performance in 2021 for the Bulldogs and as a result, they were crowned Class 2A champions once more. Van Meter has become synonymous with success in many sports and baseball continued that by etching their name into the history books. The 2021 Bulldogs became the eighth team in Iowa high school baseball history to capture three straight state titles. It also marked the seventh time in the last 14 years touching up 30 or more victories. Just as much excitement looks to pour into the 2022 campaign as well thanks to nearly 70 percent of their run production returning. That’s without mentioning the return of 70 percent of their strikeout total as well. Then, you add in the addition of Forest City star and University of Iowa commit Reese Moore. The same individual who won the 2A triple crown two years ago and totaled 51 bases and 31 RBI in 2021. The Bulldogs have made it a habit recently of going deep into the postseason and taking down programs of all shapes and sizes. That once again looks to be the case here in 2022.
2.) Kuemper Catholic – 2021 Record: 21-7
It was the first time in four years that the Knights of Kuemper Catholic surpassed 20 wins and it made for a very strong campaign in 2021. Against the sixth-toughest schedule, the Knights totaled 150 RBI and 293 total bases. From that, they return over 50 percent of their hit production and 55 percent of their strikeout total. That includes their leading K dealer in Cal Wanninger who tossed tossed 38 strikeouts with a 1.22 ERA. The Knights haven’t had a sub-.500 season since the 2014 campaign and it doesn’t look like they’ll come anywhere close in 2022 as they look for a trip to the state tournament in their own back yard.
3.) Estherville Lincoln Central – 2021 Record: 20-6
The typical strong Estherville Lincoln Central season came together once more in 2021 for the Midgets. The season produced the programs fifth 20-plus win season in the past 15 years. From that, nearly all of their offensive production (which ranked top-25 in Class 2A in RBI) returns for at least one more season. In fact, the Midgets bring back nearly 90 percent of of their run production (RBI). That includes Ryan Schiltz who paced the team with 31 runs, 29 hits, and 43 total bases. Then when it comes to the pitching mound, the Midgets return a big haul as well returning nearly 70 percent of their strikeouts, despite losing out on 72 K’s from last year senior Will Larson.
4.) Jesup: 2021 Record: 26-4
There was a lot to like about the 2021 campaign for the Jesup J-Hawks. They claimed the North Iowa Cedar East title and their sixth 20-plus win season in the past 14 years. They were a squad sound both offensively and defensively beginning with the fact that they committed the fewest errors in Class 2A (34) while issuing the third fewest walks (69) and the fewest runs allowed of any 2A squad (68). It helped that they posted 117 strikeouts (third best in 2A) to limit opposing bats to a mere 136 hits on the year. All that is without mentioning the offensive strength the J-Hawks possessed sporting a run differential of 177 which stood third-best among all Class 2A squads. They return 57 percent of that scoring offense for 2022 and perhaps more importantly, over 60 percent of the pitching power (strikeouts).
5.) West Marshall – 2021 Record: 24-12
For the seventh time in the past 14 years, the West Marshall Trojans sported a win total 20 or above and another great season it was. The Trojans showcased their power in a big way, leading all Class 2A teams with 24 home runs. That helped West Marshall pull out 464 total bases (second in the class) and 233 RBI (fifth in Class 2A). What’s really exciting is that they bring back 16 of the 24 home runs from last season and they. return the services of players who accounted for 66 percent of the total run production, despite the loss of Class 2A’s RBI leader Kaden Davis. From their 263 strikeouts on the mound last season, they retain the services of those who accounted for all but four of those strikeouts. Another year to gain experience from an already talented bunch and the rest of the Class 2A world will have to be on serious watch in 2022.
6.) Denver – 2021 Record: 18-19
Despite an up and down campaign, the Denver Cyclones managed to make it to the hallowed grounds of Merchants Park in Carroll for the state tournament in 2021. They took down powerhouses Jesup and Dike-New Hartford to reach the state tournament for the fifth time in program history. They may not have been the flashiest team but they did sport 255 strikeouts which ranked fifth in all of Class 2A. From that group they retain all but two hurlers and 55 percent of the total strikeout production in 2021. The Cyclones had good pop to their bats and they used that to the tune of 75 doubles, second only to Anamosa’s 94. All but 27 of those return to aid the Cyclones in what will undoubtedly be another strong campaign to once again put them deep in postseason conversations.
7.) Beckman Catholic – 2021 Record: 21-15
Over the past 14 seasons, just the 2020 pandemic-riddled campaign cut the Blazers short of 20-plus victories and the 2021 season got them back on track. It was quite a tough test for Backman Catholic who had their schedule rated as arguably the hardest in all of Class 2A. Even with that said, the Blazers sure did blaze yet another strong trail, ranking fifth in the class in hits (301), third in singles (239), and fourth in triples (13). One of several really exciting points is that they return a lot of that firepower including Owen Huehnergarth who paced the Blazers and ranked fifth in the class with 46 RBI. In fact, nearly 80 percent of the RBI production returns once more. The pitching side may have lost three of their top five pitchers from 2021 but that doesn’t include Logan Burchard who comes back following his 47 K season. There’s no doubt that you won’t be able to write the season of 2022 baseball in 2A without Beckman Catholic.
8.) Anamosa – 2021 Record: 20-20
After eleven sub-.500 seasons, the Blue Raiders of Anamosa turned things around in 2021, going an even 20-20. They sure were a hot team, ranking second in the class with 22 home runs and fourth in the class with 237 RBI. On the mound, their 276 strikeouts ranked third among Class 2A foes. As far as the offense goes, the Blue Raiders keep nearly 75 percent of their RBI total from last season. That includes Class 2A’s RBI runner up in Sam Wilt who blasted 52 RBI and Class 2A’s second-most 11 home runs. On the mound, behind team strikeout leader Eli Lehrman (63 strikeouts), the Blue Raiders are once again going to be formidable on the mound as well. They will bring back the talent that accounted for 88 percent of the strikeout total last season. Plenty of firepower offensively and defensively for Anamosa who looks to continue the turn around and keep the Blue Raiders in the competitive conversation for years to come.
9.) Dike-New Hartford – 2021 Record: 23-10
For the seventh time in the past 14 years, Dike-New Hartford baseball produced a 20-plus win campaign in 2021. It was another expected season as has been the tradition with Wolverine baseball. It did mark a bitter-sweet moment as it was the final season in the nine year tenure of Sean Leonard. In that farewell campaign Dike-New Hartford sported 17 home runs (4th in Class 2A) and produced 183 RBI. Not much to worry about for 2022 as the Wolverines return 65 percent of their run production and 68 percent of their walk total from 2021. Only 22 teams in Class 2A sported over 200 strikeouts on the mound and Dike-New Hartford was one of them with 210. Nearly 70 percent of that production on the mound (in the form of strikeouts) returns to take on the 2022 campaign. Overall, it may be a new era under new head coach Jordan Martin, but it will surely be another strong season for Wolverine baseball.
10.) Treynor – 2021 Record: 14-12
It was an up and down season for the Cardinals in 2021 and although we didn’t see their customary 20-plus win season (which has occurred in 12 of the past 14 seasons), it is still called a success. It was a team that had just one senior on the playing roster but they played like a team full of upperclassmen anyway. That has seemed to be the theme for Treynor baseball, who has made it to the state tournament four times out of the past six years. Now, the team is poised to make another strong run as they return over 90 percent of their offensive run production and 85 percent of their overall strike total from the 2021 campaign. Plenty of strength to go around for the Cardinals led by now junior Jaxon Schumacher who ranked top-20 in Class 2A in RBI with 35 and eighth overall in total bases with 84. That’s without mentioning his returning pitching talents as well which posted 44 strikeouts compared to just 18 walks during his junior campaign. Ultimately, there’s a lot to like about the Treynor program which has a knack of being deep in the postseason conversation nearly every year.