Now, after three classes in the books, we will conclude our initial preseason rankings with our Way-Too-Early Preseason rankings, Class 1A edition.
1.) Newman Catholic – 2021 Record: 34-2
If recent history has taught us anything in Iowa high school baseball, it’s that the Newman Catholic Knights out of Mason City will always be in contention for a title. After all, the 2021 season saw the Knights post up their 11th 30-plus win campaign in the past 14 seasons. It was perhaps one of the more exciting seasons for Newman, despite not making it back to the state tournament where they were playing in the title game just a year prior. From the team that ranked fourth in Class 1A with 473 total bases and fifth with a slugging mark of .487, the Knights bring back over 80 percent of their run production. That includes the powerful Nash Holmgaard who collected 12 of Newman’s 24 team home runs (and 101 of the team’s 473 TB). That also includes University of Iowa commit Max Burt who paced the squad with a .576 OBP. Pitching-wise, the team that led all of 1A with 307 K’s looks to return 80 percent of their strikeout total. Sixty-nine of those strikeouts (compared to just 10 walks) comes from returning ace (and University of Iowa commit) Douglas Taylor. Ultimately, despite the abrupt and shocking end to the 2021 campaign for Newman, there’s nothing short of sheer excitement for 2022 and without a doubt a top spot in our initial rankings.
2.) Kee – 2021 Record: 35-10
When writing the history of high school baseball in Iowa, it’s nearly impossible to leave out Kee High School, the very program that etched it’s 24th state tournament appearance in program history across 2021. That now ties them for seventh all time in baseball. The 2021 season seemed like the Hawks were back to their old ways, ranking third in the class in strikeouts (299), third in RBI (277), third in runs scored (366), and third in total bases (480) among other things. Offensively, the Kee Hawks bring back from that, nearly 90 percent of their hit total looks to don the jersey once more. That includes team hits leader Tyson Cota who’s 60 hits ranked fourth in all of Class 1A. On the mound, the Kee Hawks don’t loose out on a single strikeout, including that of Dalton Dibert and his 76 K’s from the 2021 campaign. Overall, Kee is set up perfectly for another state tournament run, perhaps for an even deeper run in 2022. A run that the entire baseball world will be very excited to catch.
3.) Council Bluffs St. Albert – 2021 Record: 35-8
What a year it was for the Falcons of St. Albert in 2021. Along with just their second 30-plus win campaign in 14 years, the program secured its 12th state tournament appearance and fourth state title. The now reigning champs bring back an excited roster, from a roster that ranked second in batting average (.397) first in runs scored (441), first in hits (475), first in total bases (603), and first in RBI (355). So much went the way of coach Patterson and the Falcons, and for 2022 that includes the return of three of their top six run producers, including Brendan Monahan and his 41 RBI and 82 total bases (not to mention his 31 stolen bases). Overall, there may not be as many flashy talking points about the Falcons, but in the end, they have proven themselves the team to be a team that’s here to stay and will likely seek to become a repeat title winner.
4.) North Linn – 2021 Record: 34-6
For the sixth time in seven seasons, the North Linn Lynx baseball program topped 30 wins in a season during the 2021 campaign. It was a season that saw the team lead the class in stolen bases (222) while fourth in runs scored (361). From that offensive power, the Lynx bring back pretty much all of their run total (99 percent) as well as 87 percent of their run producers (RBI). On the base paths, every single one of their stolen bases return, including Austin Hilmer and his Class 1A-best 75 stolen bases from last season. The Lynx also bring back that strong defense which including a fielding percentage at .949. What perhaps adds even more excitement for 2022 is the return of their entire pitching staff, all 258 innings and 252 strikeouts. That portion looks to be spearheaded by Hilmer and Mason Bechen who tossed 57 strikeouts last season before officially being called a freshman. Safe to say that the Lynx will be having another strong season in 2022, making baseball fans even more eager for the season ahead to commence.
5.) Lisbon – 2021 Record: 25-14
To say that the Lisbon baseball program had a strong season in 2021 would be putting it mildly. The Lions posted their 11th 20-plus win campaign across the past 14 seasons. There was a lot that went on for the Lions including a four-year high in strikeouts thrown (276). From that group, no a single hurler departs and all look to return including now junior Hunter Clark who posted 83 strikeouts as a sophomore, limiting opposing bats to a .232 average. There’s no “pretty much” all back here, in fact with no seniors on the varsity roster last season, the entire offensive production returns as well. The 2022 campaign will have just two seniors as well, boding very well for Lisbon past this upcoming year as well. As for the 2022 campaign offensively, the Lions are looking forward to the return of leading run producer Tyson Scott, who knocked in 38 runs of his own. It’s going to be a fun season in the Tri-Rivers conference, especially with the returning East champs looking for yet another state tournament run, coming off of their 9th state tournament appearance. The last time for the Lions was in 2018 when they made the state title game.
6.) Grundy Center – 2021 Record: 19-9
It’s easy to see why so many baseball fans are riding high on the Spartans from Grundy Center. The 2021 campaign saw the program pick up their fourth state tournament berth in school history. Not only that, but it marked the first time in 28 years that Grundy Center baseball graced the state tournament. That included taking down rising power Coon Rapids-Bayard in substate final action. For the 2022 season, they too return everything from 100 percent of their 119 RBI to all 181 of their innings pitched. They retain the services of top run producer in Brayden Sawyer who was one of only two players in Class 1A with one strikeout or less to their name in 2021. The now senior hit .405 offensively while also dealing on the mound to the tune of 82 strikeouts. Ultimately it’s not hard to imagine this team back at Merchants Park vying for a state title as the chemistry only strengthens and makes the Spartans one of the bigger threats in Class 1A baseball for 2022.
7.) Remsen St. Mary’s – 2021 Record: 27-4
Coming off of their sixth straight and 18th overall state tournament appearance, the reigning War Eagle Conference champions have quite a lot of excitement ahead for the 2022 campaign. After all, they do come fresh off of a season ranking in the top ten of Class 1A in total bases (399), RBI (245), hits (301), and of course, strikeouts with 283 (and a team ERA of 1.39). Despite losing out on their top two hits leaders, the Hawks still return 55 percent of their scoring offense including Cael Ortmann who posted a .385 average at the plate while leading the team with 35 RBI off of 24 hits. Even despite the loss of Blaine Harpenau and his historic 129 strikeouts, Remsen St. Mary’s still can look forward to the 52 percent of the strikeout performance donning the jersey at least once more. When looking at the potential outcomes for the Class 1A 2022 season, it’s hard not to think that the Hawks will not still be involved late in the conversation. For the time being however, all fans can do is wait and imagine the excitement for the season ahead.
8.) Kingsley-Pierson – 2021 Record: 28-4
What a season it was for the Kingsley-Pierson Panthers in 2021. First off, they collected their fifth 20-plus win season over the past 15 years. They also did so with their second-lowest loss total in 15 years only behind the sensational 31-3-1 season back in 2007. The same team that ranked seventh among Class 1A squads in RBI total (247) and fourth in triples (13) comes back pretty much in tact. Ninety-one percent of the runs produced look to return, not to mention the 91 percent return on their total bases for 2021 which also ranked seventh in Class 1A. Helping to lead the way offensively is standout Damon Schmid who picked up 75 total bases last season while stealing 31 bases as well. Aside from being a sound defensive team as well, the Panthers totaled 225 strikeouts as a team, led by returning ace Evan Neumann who posted 52 strikeouts while limiting the opposition to a mere .199 average. Ready and poised, the Panthers seem like their ready to avenge their substate final loss and onto the state tournament with a team that could fit that bill.
9.) New London – 2021 Record: 26-2
Following an exciting 2021 campaign, there’s a lot to be excited for when it comes to New London baseball. The same program that struck for 13 home runs, ranked ninth in RBI count (240) and led all of Class 1A with 20 triples returns over 80 percent of their run production (RBI) and over 90 percent of their hit total. From there, the Tigers, who posted over 100 stolen bases retains their top thief on the base paths in Josh Catala (34). Catala also looks to spearhead the efforts on the mound where he 31 strikeouts and is part of the 70 percent that will don a New London uniform once more. With all of that, the Tigers suffered their lowest loss total since the 2007 campaign. There’s certainly a lot there to suggest that the Tigers are quite capable of gracing the state tournament for a third time in program history.
10.) Coon Rapids-Bayard – 2021 Record: 24-9
Perhaps one of the more exciting teams in Class 1A last year was the Coon Rapids-Bayard Crusaders. With 229 RBI, the Crusaders ranked ninth across the class as they posted their 11th 20-plus win campaign across the past 14 seasons. They posted a top-20 team mark in RBI across the class and from that, 64 percent of their run production looks to return for another go-round. Gabe Obert aims to lead the offensive push coming off of a .383 season while leading the Crusaders in RBI with 36, not to mention 53 total bases. From their 17th ranked 141 stolen bases in 2021, 90 percent comes back with the help of Easton Hays (32 stolen bases) and Kolby Culbertson (21). There’s even more that returns for the Crusaders looking on the mound as they bring back four of their top six pitchers from the 2021 campaign. That includes Preston McAlister who held opposing bats to a .209 average on the heels of 42 strikeouts. The Crusaders were another team that fell just shy of a state tournament berth but they very well could overcome that hurdle here in 2022.