Saturday, August 24, 2019
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

Hadzic living the American dream

Amir Hadzic brings a perspective to coaching like few others.

In his first year as the Xavier boys soccer coach in 2007, his team lost a heartbreaker in the state tournament to underdog Norwalk when the Saints’ 13-year-old freshman kicker missed a game-deciding penalty shot.

Last year that same athlete, Charlie Bales, was an all-stater as a senior and led top-ranked Xavier to the first of its two straight state titles. A photo in his office at Mount Mercy University shows the coach and his star player in a happy embrace.

“It was a tough situation for him that first year,” Hadzic says. “But last year, finally, it all paid off.”

Living through war, as the Bosnian native did for three terrifying years, taught him both to savor life’s triumphs a little more but not to be distracted by small defeats.

“The one big thing I learned from war is to enjoy the little things in life,” he says. “Normal things we take for granted like a shower, going to a movie, eating ice cream.”


A night of 28 stars

This past Sunday night was the 11th Annual Celebration of Sports Banquet. This banquet honors not only the Athlete's of the Year from each of the Linn County High Schools, but also celebrates the achievements of the East Central Iowa Special Olympians for the year.

Each year a Male and Female Athlete of the Year for Linn County is selected from the 28 athletes assembled. It is the oldest cliche in the book, but any of the athletes in attendance could hold that honor. This year the two recipients were Prairie's Matt Stocker and Linn-Mar's Kiah Stokes.

I had the honor of emceeing the banquet again this year. This night sort of puts a "ribbon" on the high school sports year. Yes, I know that baseball and softball are just getting underway and will not crown champions until July, but this night is a chance to look back and reflect on what transpired during the past 10 months of competition.

This group of athletes won a total of 270 letters during their athletic careers - 164 for the girls and 106 for the boys. Many will go on to play sports in college, some will concentrate on their academics and prepare for the next stage of their lives. They all are winners.


Woods will sign pro contract with Marlins

Nate Woods had just gotten a burrito at Panchero's on Edgewood Road NW when his cell phone rang Wednesday night.

It was a phone call he'll remember for a long time, because it marked the start of his pro baseball career.

Woods will fly to Florida on Thursday and sign a free-agent contract with the Florida Marlins, fulfilling a dream to become a professional baseball player.

Woods, 22, hit 33 homers and drove in 140 runs at Belmont University the last two seasons, but he wasn't drafted either year and wondered if he'd ever get a chance to play pro ball.

He watched his brother, Corbin, play for Xavier High School Wednesday night and stopped at Panchero's on the way home for a late-night snack when the phone rang.

"I'm excited," he said. "I've got nothing to lose and I can go play baseball."



Schemmel laments split with Waterloo West

Xavier Coach Dave Schemmel is an old-school baseball guy and a gentleman. He'd never do anything to demean an opponent, but facts were facts Wednesday night.

His Saints played a struggling, weakened team from Waterloo West and had to settle for a split of their Mississippi Valley Conference twinbill at Ken Charipar Field.

Schemmel was not happy.

"We should have come out of it with two wins," he said. "It's a little frustrating, and they didn't have three of their starters. You hope to take two from the teams you think you should beat."

Waterloo West won the first game, 9-8, in eight innings. Xavier took the nightcap, 16-6, in six innings.


Sampson shines at shortstop for Saints, but she'll run track in college

Tyler Sampson likes softball and is an outstanding shortstop for Xavier High School, but her days on the softball diamond are starting to dwindle away.

Sampson has accepted a scholarship to run track at Western Illinois University, so her softball career will end in July with the end of the high school season.

She'll report to college in Macomb, Ill., in August and specialize in the sprints at Western Illinois.

"I just like running," Sampson said Tuesday after the Saints split a Mississippi Valley Conference doubleheader with Iowa City High at Bob Erusha Field. "I like the school, it's a good distance from home, and they have my major and everything."

The Saints (9-4, 8-4) and Little Hawks (6-9, 5-5) played two tight games. Xavier won the opener, 3-1, and Iowa City High grabbed the nightcap, 3-2, in 10 innings.

Sampson plans to major in physical education at Western Illinois, which makes sense. She's been a four-sport athlete at Xavier and won 15 varsity letters in volleyball, basketball, track and softball.


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