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Little Hawks and Trojans enter postseason

BY TOM GOLDHAMMER | JULY 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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The city of Iowa City will host two substate baseball tournament games tonight. Iowa City West (32-8) will take on Cedar Rapids Washington (13-23), and City High (24-15) will face Dubuque Hempstead (13-24). Each game has the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.

Little Hawk assistant coach Steve Wildman stressed the importance of his players adjusting their mental approach, because they are now playing for their lives every evening they take the field.

"Our boys need to realize it's a new season now, going into the tournament," Wildman said, "I think that if they can put it together, they can beat anybody in the state."

However, he said, he realizes that putting it together is much more easily said than done. City High enters the tournament after wrapping up a difficult final stretch of regular-season games that saw them lose seven out of their last 10.

Wildman said several areas of the team's game play need to improve.

"There are so many little things — such as base running — that we make mistakes on," he said. "Our approach at the plate, hitting the ball — we are making some mistakes. Especially when we have two strikes on us, we're not trying to make it go the other way, and we're still trying to hit the ball over the fence."

The West coaches' focus is on an alternate element of the game on the other side of town at Trojan Field.

"I'll tell you, it starts on the mound. Guys are throwing a lot of strikes and doing a great job," Trojan assistant coach Tom Cronk said. "Anytime you beat a good team, you feel good, and we're just going to try to keep this feeling going."

West enters substate riding a seven-game winning streak. Stretching that run to 13 games would mean raising a Class 4A state championship trophy in Des Moines on July 28.

Cronk has seen the Trojans' recent dominance, and that leads him to believe that he and his fellow coaches have all the tools at their disposal to make a deep push in the tournament.

"We have a talented group," Cronk said. "If we play to our ability, we have the chance to win no matter who it's against. The guys get that."

Cronk's vision for success relies heavily on pitching, and West has a plethora of talented pitchers. Nick Grimsman has been getting tuned up for Friday's game and beyond for the last couple weeks of the season.

"I felt good when I pitched against City High [on July 6], and I felt good when I pitched Tuesday," the senior right-hander said. "I've been able to keep my velocity up even though it's a long season."

The pitching rotation for West is fresh entering the game, thanks to the evenly spread workload that the staff has used.

The starting probable for the West/Washington game is senior Kellen Yoder on the bump for the Trojans, with the Warrior's most likely counter-attack coming from the arm of junior A.J. Puk. Grimsman and company swept the Warriors last month when they met, but despite being familiar with Puk's stuff, the Trojans are careful to not look past anyone.

Hempstead and City High played a double-header on June 1 in Dubuque and split. It's likely that the teams won't be able to recognize each other with the experience gained through the season, but Little Hawk sophomore Michael Haring showed confidence in his group's potential.

"If we play how we did Tuesday, we should do pretty well against Hempstead," he said.


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