With the end of a work week coming our way, what better way to celebrate than with the continuation of our Way-Too-Early Preseason rankings. This time, we bump back up as we tangle through the Class 3A ranks and get a glimpse of the excitement that will be for the 2022 season. There certainly was a lot to be happy with last year especially the run production which in Class 3A marked a three-year high. That included nearly 500 RBI more than the pre-pandemic season of 2019 despite being one team less. There was an uptake in strikeouts as well, ultimately aiding in a very fun year of baseball in 2021. That feeling seems to be ramped up and more as we start to look at what could be for 2022.
Now, without further wait, lets dive into our Way-Too-Early Preseason Class 3A rankings:
1.) Marion – 2021 Record: 37-6
It’s no secret that the 2021 season was arguably the best season to date for Marion baseball. After all, their third straight trip to the state tournament resulted in the programs’ first ever state title. It marked the program’s highest win total in over 14 seasons as they paced the Class 3A ranks in team batting average (.348), runs (447), and RBI (333). Offensively, the Indians (now Wolves), dominated by leading Class 3A in singles (311), doubles (95), and total bases (633). That’s without mentioning the fact that defensively, they were one of only two teams in Class 3A to sport 300 or more strikeouts. Even though the Wolves lost some big pieces from that historic season, they still bring back quite a lot including over 50 percent of their hit and RBI totals. Not to mention the return of nearly 80 percent of their strikeout total. That includes Kirkwood commit Boede Rahe’s 90 K’s thrown and University of Iowa commit Myles Davis and his 96 total bases. Ultimately, the reigning champs bring back too much not to be dubbed the top team entering the 2022 campaign.
2.) Wahlert Catholic – 2021 Record: 32-11
It seems fitting that the team that fell just shy of a state title, was runner up across the 2021 season in Class 3A, and sat just behind Marion in total bases on the year (561) would be the team that rests at number two in our initial rankings. The Wahlert Catholic Golden Eagles had a season not to be forgotten as they arrived at their first state title game since the 1965 spring season. The team tied the program high win total over the past 14 years and it came with the help of 24 home runs, 258 RBI, and a .371 team average. What brings excitement to the 2022 season is the haul coach Tuescher and company get back. That includes the return of 50 percent of the overall RBI production, not to mention 60 percent of their production on the base paths. All that leads up to the return of University of Iowa commit Aaron Savory who led the team that posted 271 total strikeouts with a Class 3A fourth-best 96 K’s of his own. The Golden Eagles were able to do all of this without another star player in University of Kentucky commit Tommy Specht, so there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be able to continue that trend with the loss of other big names as well. Certainly enough big talent to keep the Golden Eagles in the competitive conversation for years to come.
3.) Davenport Assumption – 2021 Record: 25-14
One of the many things we as baseball fans in Iowa have been able to take away from year to year is that the Davenport Assumption baseball program will more often than not be in the postseason conversation. If the Knights don’t have their typical 30-plus win season (which has occurred six times in the past ten years), they’ll be right back at it aright around the corner. That is what appears to be likely for the Knights entering the 2022 season. For a team with the third-toughest schedule in Class 3A and ranked eighth in the class with 236 RBI, they will look pretty strong in 2022. They return 230 of those 236 RBI from the 2021 squad which ranked third in Class 3A in team batting average (.341). The offensive charge is led by a solid group of bats including young phenom Roderick Tanamor (39 RBI) and Max Stein (57 TB) among others. On the mound, over 85 percent of their strike-throwing production looks to grace the field once more. That includes Spoon River CC commit Keegan Shovlain who totaled 43 strikeouts compared to just 19 walks. Overall, while the Knights leaned slightly on the younger side last year, they only grow and improve from there, making them one of the most dangerous teams to face in Class 3A.
4.) Independence – 2021 Record: 27-14
From the team that ranked top-15 in schedule toughness across 2021, the Independence Mustangs look to return just as strong heading into the 2022 season. After all, they do come off of their highest win total in 15 years. For the season ahead, they return 98 percent of the offensive production which ranked 12th in the class in RBI (217) in 2021 and included first-team All-State catcher Keegan Schmitt who produced 39 of those (ranked 17th in Class 3A). In fact, all three Mustang batters who posted 30 or more RBI look to don an Independence uniform once more in the 2022 campaign. The Mustangs just add more elements to their game from a year in which they fell one game shy of the state tournament. They also have bats like Iowa Western CC commit Marcus Beatty who led the team with 32 walks while still posting 80 total bases. They also return nine of their top fielders plus, 80 percent of their strikeout total on the mound, despite the loss of top arm Josh Struve. Most of what produced the fourth-most strikeouts in the class (283), looks to return. One of the best seasons in Mustang history has the potential to be followed up with even more and the stage is set for perhaps the most exciting season ever for Independence baseball.
5.) Solon – 2021 Record: 29-12
Speaking of another team who came just one game shy of a state tournament berth, the Solon Spartans look to be an interesting squad to watch in 2022. They were one of the biggest slugging teams across 2021, ranking second in the class with 308 RBI plus a team slugging mark of .461 which ranked fifth best in all of Class 3A. At a clip of a .335 team batting average, the Spartans ranked third among Class 3A teams with 507 total bases. What they bring back from all of that offense is nearly 60 percent of their total bases and nearly 60 percent of their run production. That includes one of the best 2024 grads in the state in Brett White who sported a Class 3A second-most 56 RBI and is dubbed the sixth-best shortstop according to Perfect Game Iowa. Then there’s Tennessee Tech commit Kinnick Pusteoska with his 76 total bases not to mention Blake Timmons who sits number two among all 2023 shortstops in Iowa according to PBR-Iowa. Ultimately, Solon was the only team to have three batters in the top 20 individual batters in the Class for total bases. The biggest question mark surrounding the Spartans this early is how their pitching will hold up with the loss of four of their top five innings eaters and strikeout leaders from last year. Ultimately, there’s seemingly too much behind Solon baseball to not give them a nod for a top ten spot.
6.) Grinnell – 2021 Record: 30-6
When looking at teams that could potentially reside in our initial top-ten rankings, the Grinnell Tigers certainly fit that bill. Their 2021 season marked the highest win total for the program in over 15 years, not to mention their first 30 win season in over 15 years. Their primary strength came on the mound where they ranked fourth in total strikeouts (283) while collectively holding opposing bats to a mere .163 average, the best in all of Class 3A. Sixty-five percent of what made the Tigers so effective on the mound look to return including Simpson College commit Brady Steward who tossed 72 K’s on his own. On top of that, the Tigers look to bring back four of their top five hitters including total bases leader Colin Gibson (71 TB) and Will Doty, RBI leader (29 RBI). The Tigers also held plenty of speed on the base paths which resulted in 166 stolen bases, a top-ten mark across all of Class 3A. They became one five teams to have two or more runners inside the top-20 with Isaiah Seck (28 stolen bases) and Cole Johnson (23 stolen bases). Certainly, enough here to lend the Tigers on the preseason list and creates a lot of excitement for what’s to come for Grinnell baseball in 2022.
7.) Xavier – 2021 Record: 27-13
It’s no surprise that the Xavier Saints baseball program once again went through a grueling schedule in 2021. Yet through that, the Saints came out and posted their ninth 20-plus win season over the past 14 seasons. They did so through the second-toughest rated schedule in all of Class 3A and sported 231 RBI which ranked ninth among all teams in the class. Despite the loss of some big pieces to that offensive puzzle, the Saints still look to bring back three of their top six hits leaders including Iowa Western CC commit Alex Neal (43 RBI, 45 hits). Where there bears more excitement is on the pitching mound where the Saints bring back three of their top five arms and 67 percent of their strikeout total. That once again includes Neal who sported a Class 3A top-ten mark of 86 K’s marking one of his career best marks. The All-State arm also issued a mere seven walks all season. Of course, the pitching conversation also included Drew Proskovec, a University of Iowa commit, who tossed 44 strikeouts of his own. Coming off of their eighth state tournament appearance, the Saints look to be back at it again in 2022, a major player in the Class 3A scene.
8.) Waverly-Shell Rock – 2021 Record: 33-8
Six years after their lone state championship season, the Waverly-Shell Rock Go-Hawks graced the state tournament for the seventh time in program history. It was a season not to be forgotten as the program ranked top six in Class 3A in hits (339), top three in RBI (258), and dominated on the mound with a Class 3A best 337 total strikeouts. So much to look back on with excitement but what adds to it all is what they Go-Hawks might do in 2022. Coming off of their fourth 30-plus win season in 14 years, the Go-Hawks bring back 60 percent of their hit total and 65 percent of their run production. That includes multi-faceted star and DMACC commit Chance Key with his 54 RBI and 92 total bases (4th in 3A). On top of that, Key helps to spearhead a dangerous pitching staff returning 77 percent of their strikeout total. It’s a team hungry to get back to the hallowed grounds of the state tournament and with another year and a majority of their staff back, that looks to be a very real possibility.
9.) MOC-Floyd Valley – 2021 Record: 27-9
There’s no doubt that the 2021 season was a historic one for MOC-Floyd Valley baseball. After all, it did send the program to its second-ever state tournament appearance. It also marked the seventh 20-plus win season over the past 14 seasons for the Dutchmen and the highest win total for the program in that same time frame. They totaled 416 bases and ranked sixth in the class with 246 RBI. They also held opposing bats to a .241 average on the heels of 224 strikeouts. From that strong squad, head coach Brian Wede brings back nearly 80 percent of that offensive firepower (RBI). That includes the return of Carson Jager who sported 46 hits as a sophomore and ranked fourth among all Class 3A sophomore hitters. Pitching may provide more question marks with losses like Colton Korver and Kleyton De Groot but there seems to be enough strength to keep the Dutchmen strong on the mound as well. Ultimately, under coach Wede’s 500-plus victories, MOC-FV baseball appears to not just make the state tournament again, but run the tables in search of more which only makes things better for those lucky enough to view their games.
10.) Winterset – 2021 Record: 22-12
There are certainly is several teams that could grace the last few spots in the top ten, and the Winterset Husky baseball team is one. It was another strong season for the Huskies who touched up 20 wins for the third time in the past 14 seasons. Offensively, Winterset was strong with 190 RBI upon 360 total bases. To that, they return three of their top five hitters and includes Class 3A’s stolen base leaders in Dawson Forgy with 38 stolen bases. Arguably one of the biggest highlights for the Huskies in 2021 was on the mound where they ranked third in Class 3A with 289 strikeouts at a clip of a 2.75 ERA. That includes TCU commit Justin Hackett who tossed 87 strikeouts which ranked 11th across the class 3A landscape. Hackett and over 50 percent of their strikeout total returns giving the Huskies a dangerous team to compete against for the 2022 campaign.