Thursday, July 09, 2020
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

Opportunity for rare feat awaits Kennedy

Sustained excellence in high school sports is difficult to capture. Athletes and coaches often come and go. A bad break here or there can ruin an otherwise spectacular season. State championships are tough to come by.

This week, Kennedy’s baseball team is seeking a repeat of a Class 4A state baseball state championship. You have to go back 60-some years to find another Metro area baseball program that has repeated at the state level, and that high school no longer exists. Wilson High School, now a middle school, won state championships in 1947 and ’48 and again in 1950.

This is not to suggest there hasn’t been excellent baseball in the Metro area. But if you’re talking back-to-back state titles, the fraternity is very small.

Kennedy has done it in a variety of ways, most notably consistency in coaching. Bret Hoyer is at the helm now and he has consistently produced quality, if not championship teams. Before him, Bill Herkelman had solid programs year after year. The Cougars also have developed an excellent youth program that has served the high school squad well.

State championships are not the only measure of excellence, but they are the one common denominator for every school to achieve.


Metro players dominate all-district baseball

Kennedy had four players, Prairie three and Xavier two named to the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 4A Northeast District first team released Monday.

Marion also had two players chosen for the Class 3A Northeast District first team.

Overall, 23 Metro players were chosen to the first and second teams in Class 4A and 3A.

Kennedy's first teamers were senior outfielder Austin Christensen, senior second baseman Terrell Sykes, senior utility man David Yancey and junior pitcher Alex Hayden.

Chosen to first from Prairie were senior pitcher Anthony Gagliardi, senior catcher Dustin Carlson and senior first baseman DJ Utley.

Xavier's first team players were senior pitcher Ean McNeal and junior utility man Mack Mattke.

Marion's first team picks were senior second baseman Kasey Semler and junior pitcher Tyler Hedtke.

Kennedy had three players on the second team, and Linn-Mar, Prairie, Xavier and Washington had two apiece. Jefferson was not represented on either team.

Marion senior shortstop Zach Nielsen was a second teamer on the Class 3A team.

Players were selected by a vote of coaches. There were 14 schools in the Class 4A Northeast District, including 13 of the 14 Mississippi Valley Conference teams (Dubuque Wahlert is a 3A school) and Western Dubuque. There were 34 schools spread over the four other 4A districts, just six in the Southwest District.


Tim Evans new baseball coach at Kirkwood

Tim Evans has been selected as the new baseball coach at Kirkwood Community College, the Metro Sports Report confirmed Sunday night.

Evans succeeds John Lewis, who retired as Kirkwood's head coach this summer after 32 years and 1,095 victories.

Evans played for Lewis at Kirkwood and served as one of Lewis' assistant coaches from 1992-96.

Evans was an assistant coach at Iowa State for one season and was there when the Cyclones dropped their program. He also coached for two years at the University of Iowa.

Evans graduated from Cedar Rapids Prairie High School. He played at Kirkwood for two years, then went to Southern Arkansas before playing in the minor leagues.

Evans was one of the original owners of the Diamond Dreams baseball academy in Iowa City. He is the owner/founder of the ABG Baseball & Softball Academy and also serves as a scout for the Cleveland Indians.

Evans could not be reached for comment Sunday night.


Wagner makes smooth move to Marion

Mitch Wagner missed a trip to the state baseball tournament with Kennedy High School this week, but he's found another ride to Principal Park in Des Moines.

He's going as the starting third baseman for the Marion Indians.

Wagner transferred from Kennedy to Marion this past year as a junior, seeking new opportunities in sports and the classroom. He's delighted with the results.

"Academically, it's a smaller school and smaller class sizes. I thought that would be a good situation for me," he said. "And sports-wise, just an opportunity to play as a junior."

Wagner was ineligible for sports for the first 90 days of the 2010-11 school year as a transfer student, causing him to miss part of the basketball season, but he found a role as a reserve guard and helped the Indians make the state basketball tournament.

He's been the starting third baseman for the baseball team all season and is hitting a solid .375 as the Indians prepare for the opening round of the Class 3A tournament in Des Moines on Tuesday. Marion (26-16) will play Storm Lake (26-8) at noon.

Wagner ranks in the top 2 or 3 for the Indians in batting average, home runs (4), RBIs (39), hits (54), doubles (8), triples (5), walks (23) and stolen bases (10 for 10).

"He's been a pleasant little surprise," Marion Coach Steve Fish remarked. "We're happy to have him."

Wagner stands 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds, but he's shown good power for a relatively small player. "Everybody always says that," he said with a grin. "I try to have quick hands. My philosophy is just to hit the ball hard."


Garman grabs MVP honor in Shrine Bowl

AMES - Jer Garman showed Saturday night that he's big enough to play with the big boys on a big stage.

The Linn-Mar High School tailback was named the Offensive MVP for the North team and led all rushers in the 39th Annual Shrine Bowl at Jack Trice Stadium.

The South won an exciting game, 17-14, before approximately 5,000 fans.

Garman is a strong football player who prides himself on staying in great shape, but he's only 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds. He rushed for 1,601 yards and 26 touchdowns for Linn-Mar last fall, but his size scared all of the big schools away.

He'll report for football practice at the University of North Dakota on Aug. 1, but he proved Saturday night that he can play football with all of the elite players in Iowa.

"Yeah, I definitely did," he said after rushing for a game-high 60 yards on 15 carries. "I know that some stuff didn't happen my way, but it all happens for a reason. I'm happy to be a North Dakota Fighting Sioux and I'm going to make the most of it."



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