Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Iowa Valley League

Copeland prepares for Notre Dame

Ethan Copeland playing college baseball for Notre Dame is about to become a reality.

The thought of Copeland playing college baseball at any level seemed remote two years ago after a varsity career at Cedar Rapids Prairie.

A solid performer for the Hawks, Copeland was an infielder who helped Coach Todd Rima's team to a 38-6 finish and Class 4A state championship in 2016. The desire to continue playing was there for Copeland. However, the were few offers.

"I wasn't recruited out of high school very much at all," he said. "I had no athletic scholarships offered to me at any point during high school."

Now, two years later, Copeland is playing in the Iowa Valley League, keeping his skills sharp as he prepares to enter Notre Dame in the fall as a junior.

Copeland's original plan had him joining the program at Quincy University in Illinois as a walk-on.

"I wasn't super-happy with the coaching staff and the amount of attention and support they gave me," he said. "I also was probably going to have to red-shirt my first year and I wasn't too excited about that either."

Then, near the end of his senior season at Prairie, he got a call that would change his career path.

"My old USSSA coach, Brian Furlong, told me that he got the head coaching job at Heartland (Community College) in Illinois and wanted me to go with him," Copeland said. "He knew I was signed but just wanted to run the idea by me. I told him about my issues and concerns with Quincy and how they were handling me.



Stars cling to top spot in IVL

The Stars surprised a few folks in the Iowa Valley League last season  by winning the regular-season title and capturing the IABA state crown  a short time later.

They could be doing it again, but this time it's not a surprise.

The Stars split their showdown with Red Top on Sunday at Iowa City  West High School to stay in first place in the IVL standings with  three weeks left in the season.

The Stars have a 9-5 record, followed by Williamsburg (7-5), Red Top  (7-7), Norway (6-8), Walford (6-8) and Watkins (5-7) in the compact  standings. The Stars have another big twin-bill on tap this Sunday at  Williamsburg in another showdown.

Austin Czerwiec, the Pitcher of the Year in the Iowa Valley League  last season, tossed another complete game Sunday as the Stars trimmed  Red Top, 2-1, in the first game of their doubleheader.

Cody Williams and Matt Berst had two hits for the Stars in the  victory. Berst collected an RBI and Alex Hayden had a key double.  Connor McCaffery socked a solo home run for Red Top for his third  homer in three weeks.



Brown walk-off part of fireworks in Watkins

WATKINS - There were fireworks going off all night during the annual Iowa Valley League holiday doubleheader between Norway and Watkins.

Most of the blasts were of the traditional variety with loud booms and blasts. Nick Brown provided one to remember on the field.

The former University of Iowa standout hit a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday night to give Watkins a 7-5 victory and a sweep of the twinbill before an overflow crowd at Gabe Kuester Memorial Ball Park.

The Mud Hens (5-7) got a two-run single from Jonny Frese in the bottom of the third to rally past the Bandits (6-8) for a 3-2 win in the opener.

Brown completed his career at Iowa in 2012. He played for the Mud Hens for part of that summer before returning to the Chicago area. Brown moved back to Iowa and has been on the Watkins roster full-time since  2014.

And when was the last time Brown had a walk-off homer?

"Not since my freshman year in high school," he said with a smile  before heading off to sit with his family on the field for the spectacular 25-minute post-game fireworks display.



Schulte has worn many hats in IVL

Justin Schulte has been a prominent member of the Iowa Valley League for nearly four decades as a player, coach and umpire, but it actually began when he was a young kid in Norway.

Schulte was one of the boys who chased foul balls into the corn field  and front yards that surround the famed Norway baseball field. Now 46 years old, he figures he got started when he was about 7.

You still see kids chasing those foul balls and returning them for a quarter at Norway.

"It was probably a dime back then," he said Sunday after umpiring a pair of IVL games at Mount Mercy. "Inflation got it up to a quarter."

You'd need a family three to unravel all the Schulte brothers and cousins who have played ball in Norway. If you grew up in Norway, you played as soon as you quit wearing cloth diapers.

"I don't know if it's pre-ordained, but there are a heck of a lot of Schultes that played baseball," said one of the best. "A lot of families.

"Probably the highlight of my career was playing with all three of my brothers in the Iowa Valley League, to be honest with you. It's one of the highlights of my baseball career."



McCaffery helps Red Top sweep Bandits

NORWAY - Connor McCaffery enjoyed a big day at the plate Sunday to  help Red Top sweep an Iowa Valley League doubleheader from the Norway  Bandits in Norway.

McCaffery belted a three-run homer to help Red Top win the first game,  5-4, and his sacrifice fly in the second game proved to be the  game-winning run in a 6-4 victory and the sweep.

The outcome left Red Top and Norway tied for third place in the IVL  standings with 6-6 records.

The Stars swept Walford Sunday to take sole possession of first place  with an 8-4 record. The scheduled doubleheader featuring Watkins at  Williamsburg was canceled due to wet grounds.

McCaffery's three-run homeer in the first game followed singles by  Ross Kramer and Kirby Kerr. Red Top added two runs in the fifth on a  walk by Izaya Fullard, a single by Kramer and a double by Kerr.



Czerwiec hears the sounds of success

Austin Czerwiec was born with a severe hearing disability that was not discovered until he was three years old.

He got a late start on basic sounds, vocabulary and reading, but once he was fitted with hearing aids he worked hard to catch up.

The late start did not stop him from becoming a top athlete at Muscatine High School and an accomplished baseball player at Mount  Mercy University, graduating in 2015 with a degree in business management and human resource management.

Czerwiec was honored as the Pitcher of the Year in the Iowa Valley League last season and he's excelling again for the Stars, the 2017  league and state champions.

Czerwiec tossed another complete game Sunday as the Stars topped  Walford, 6-2, in the first game of their doubleheader at Mount Mercy.

The Stars won the second game, 5-1, to remain in first place with an 8-4 record.



3 teams still tied for IVL lead

The 2018 Iowa Valley League campaign has reached the mid-point of a  20-game season and there's still no breathing room at the top.

Williamsburg, Norway and the Stars are all tied for first place with  6-4 records with 10 games left in the season. Walford is just a game  back at 5-5, with Red Top lurking at 4-6.


IOWA CITY - The Toppers and Red Sox traded one-run victories in  well-pitched games at Iowa City West High School on Sunday.

Red Top won the first game, 3-2, on a three-run double by Kirby Kerr  in the bottom of the sixth inning. Hunter Porterfield picked up the  victory in relief of Tanner Lohaus.

Hogan Penny belted a two-run homer for Williamsburg for an early 2-0  lead. Tanner Jansen pitched five shutout innings for the Red Sox  before yielding to a relief pitcher.



Watkins finds way, gains split with Walford

WATKINS - For much of the season, runs have been scarce for the Watkins Mud Hens.

Outside of a sweep of Norway in week two, Watkins had not dented the win column in Iowa Valley League play.

It appeared the Mud Hens were on their way to more of the same here Sunday against Walford. The Hogs got a two-out RBI double in the bottom of the ninth from Tyler Butz to top the hosts, 2-1, in the first game.

Then it was Butz again getting Walford out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a two-run double and it looked like the Hens were headed to their sixth straight defeat and two more setbacks.

However, from that point on Watkins starter Evan Boddicker closed the door the rest of the way, allowing just three singles and his teammates scratched across two runs in the bottom of the sixth to secure a 3-2 win and a split at Gabe Kuester Memorial Ball Park.

"I really didn't change anything out there after the first inning," said Boddicker, who pitched at Mount Mercy. "I just kept my same approach and really just tried to keep us in it."



Red Top's Kerr keeps 'working his way in'

All Kirby Kerr has ever needed on the baseball diamond is an opportunity.

And each time he gets a chance, positive results tend to follow.

After a successful freshman season at Kirkwood Community College, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound outfielder/pitcher was looking to join a team for the summer.

Former Kirkwood teammate Cal Clark, who will play next season at Houston Baptist, put him in touch with Red Top Manager Adam Sadler and he was quickly added to the Iowa Valley League team's roster

"Cal Clark gave me an in," Kerr said. "I just kept bugging him about it. He texted (Sadler) and he was more than willing to put me on the team."

Kerr has become the regular left fielder for the Toppers and also has picked up a save as a pitcher. He is appreciative of the chance to play for Red Top, both on Sundays and in the Wednesday Night League.

"On Wednesdays, it's just one game and it doesn't count toward the league record," Kerr said. "It's the same type of baseball, same guys usually. We see some different pitchers, but that's about it.



3-way logjam in IVL standings

Williamsburg, Norway and the Stars are all tied for first place in the Iowa Valley League with 5-3 records after four weeks of the 2018 regular season.

Walford is just another game back at 4-4, followed by Red Top at 3-5 and Watkins at 2-6 in the compact standings.

The Stars swept Watkins on Sunday. Walford swept Red Top, while Norway and Williamsburg split their twinbill.



Pitching carries Walford to sweep

WALFORD - Fans of well-pitched, low-scoring baseball games saw a pair of gems on Sunday in the Iowa Valley League twinbill between Walford and Red Top.

And when the dust settled on a steamy day at the Walford Ball Diamond, the host Hogs came away with a sweep in what is becoming a battle between all six league teams for the championship.

The sweep lifted the Hogs to 4-4 through four weeks of IVL play while Red Top fell to 3-5.

In the opener, Ross Swinton and Mitch Moser combined on a two-hitter as Walford escaped with a 1-0 victory.

The nightcap saw Moser start and go five innings. He was relieved in the final two innings by former Linn-Mar standout Manny Jeffery as the Hogs got a pair of unearned runs in the fifth inning to post a 3-1 triumph.

"We were kind of low on pitching today," said Moser, who got the save in the opener and the win in Game 2. "Swinton threw five strong innings and then I came in and closed it out.



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