By Doug Brenneman,
It has happened before. Every team?s goal at the beginning of the year is a state title.
The year was 2007 and Iowa Mennonite School won a state championship on the diamond.
If the 2018 IMS baseball team is to have a chance at that accomplishment, they must achieve something that no other team has done this season ? score more runs in a game than the Lisbon Lions.
Lisbon has yet to lose in 33 times taking the field this season. It remains the only undefeated team this season in Iowa prep baseball, regardless of class.
IMS, which has a 16-9 record, plays Lisbon in a Class 1A Substate 5 at 7 p.m. today in Washington at Dick Sojka Memorial Field.
Since the Lions haven?t lost, maybe they are due to drop a game.
?I sure hope so,? IMS head coach Danny Hershberger said.
IMS got to a substate final last year and lost to North Linn, 2-0. North Linn and Lisbon are both from the Tri-Rivers Conference. IMS plays in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference.
For state classification, Lisbon has 138 students while IMS has 88.
The only common opponent on the Lisbon and IMS teams? schedule this season was Lone Tree, which IMS swept in a doubleheader at Lone Tree, 4-1 and 5-1. Lisbon fell behind Lone Tree in a district semifinal 3-0 before rallying to win 13-3 in five innings.
?They have played one really good team and that?s about it,? said IMS senior Isaiah Swantz, who has pitched and played infield and outfield positions. He has a .286 batting average and a .418 on-base percentage. ?Their conference isn?t that strong.?
The 13-team Tri-Rivers Conference had six teams with winning records and three teams won seven games or less.
?I don?t think they have seen what we have,? Swantz said. ?Last year, we played North Linn in a substate game and we were right with them. Lisbon hasn?t lost a game, so it needs to happen.?
The Lisbon baseball team features seven seniors who have played together since youth ball a decade ago.
As juniors, the group was instrumental in helping the Lions reach the state tournament for the first time in five years.
?You come in here, you?re never going to stop,? Lisbon senior Jake Jennett said after the second-ranked Lions dispatched HLV, 8-1, in a Class 1A district final at Lisbon City Park Saturday. ?All nine of us could stay out here all day long. It?s a beautiful thing. It?s a beautiful thing to have.?
?They will be gunning for whoever we play,? Lisbon coach Travis Bennett said. ?They will be very hungry to get back to Principal (Park). That has been their goal all year.?
The state tournament is at Principal Park in Des Moines Friday, July 20, through Saturday, July 28. The Lions lost their first-round game at state last year, 5-4 to Akron Westfield.
?We know they are good, but we think if we play good we can beat them,? IMS senior second baseman Cole Ours said.
Ours has a .337 batting average and a .476 OBP. He has 27 stolen bases in 28 attempts.
Ours? freshman brother, Eli, leads the team at the plate, batting .379 and his OBP is .580. He has 16 stolen bases in 17 attempts.
Blake Bontrager bats .294 and leads IMS in innings pitched with 41 1/3. He has struck out 32 and walked 23 with an earned run average of 2.71. Drew Blauvelt pitched five innings in the 6-5 win over Notre Dame that gave IMS the district championship. He has a team-best ERA of 2.33 with 14 K?s and 15 bases on balls.
Lisbon senior Brett Givens has pitched 60 innings with a 1.05 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 13 walks. Senior Austin Krob has 108 K?s and 13 walks in 51 1/3 innings with an ERA of 1.09.
?We know that they are undefeated,? Hershberger said. ?We know that it will be a huge challenge for us. But then, anytime you make it to a substate final, you are going to be playing a good opponent.?
The Lions? team batting average is .425 led by Krob?s .500 and Givens? .483. Krob has eight home runs, nine triples and 12 doubles. Jennet carries a .442 average.
?We expect them to do everything well, which is probably the case or you don?t go undefeated for no reason,? Hershberger said. ?It is a big challenge for us and hopefully we are up to it.?