WCAC Baseball Preview: Stiff competition remains for Hawks
Woodward-Granger has high hopes to reach the team’s first state tournament appearance, and even though no West Central Activities Conference champion will be named, these teams look to dash the Hawks’ dreams.
The full-length team preview hits newsstands next week, but as a teaser, know Woodward’s pitching staff will look very familiar. The Hawks officially bring back 99.8 percent of their pitch count, the highest mark in the state.
Returning with just over half of its bullpen and batters this season, the Chargers are looking toward replacements to turn the team around. They bring back just 41 runs, the lowest mark in the WCAC and are the only team with a returning batting average under .200.
Des Moines Christian (29-9, state qualifier)
While the batting order is about to get a major makeover as only a third of the Lions’ plate appearances return, the pitching staff is only heating up. Kole Bradley, Trey Castille and Zach Dueker all return to the mound with a combined 2.40 ERA. Bradley notched the win over WG in the semifinal game.
The Cardinals may have struggled last year but had a number of close calls to top teams including a 2-1 loss to the Hawks and a 4-3 loss at Panorama. A 7-2 win over Madrid further proved the team’s potential. Over 80 percent of pitching and hitting return.
Interstate 35 (15-15)
With a win over Des Moines Christian (something even W-G didn’t do) last season and a grudge win over Panorama in the quarterfinals, the Roadrunners were hot-and-cold. Six players return with at least 80 plate appearances including Cristian Roquet, who is second in the WCAC with two HRs.
The Tigers were a real pain for the Hawks last season, losing both their games by just one run. Will that play out the same way this season despite only half the pitching rotation returning, most notably losing Logan Wicker and his sub-1.00 ERA? Will Braden Gibbons take the mound against Van Meter instead of the Hawks like he did twice as a junior?
The Bulldogs split its series with W-G last season, both decided by just one run. But this year’s Ogden squad is almost entirely unknown as the four most experienced hitters all graduated, and only two pitchers with over 10 innings pitched return to the mound. No Jacob Craven to worry about anymore.
Another team that split its series with W-G, the Panthers have an experienced roster in the fold as well. Over 60 percent of at-bats return with a batting average of .335 and junior Drew Taylor remains a threat after launching three home runs. The team has 15 triples coming back as well. Only Van Meter has more, and no one else has more than four.
Time for the Trojans to reload as they return only five of their seven batters with over 100 plate appearances in 2019. Most notably, Cael Lester, who led the conference with three homers. He and Quintin Berglund had 22 extra base hits together. Now the team has just seven extra bases back.
Van Meter (34-3, state champion)
An absolute powerhouse in which nothing much changes. Pitching, batting, everything is coming back at near-full capacity. Case in point, only one senior was on last season’s team that won the title game 6-0 over North Linn, which hadn’t been shutout all season.
West Central Valley (4-26)
The Wildcats were slow to swing the bats last season and come back with a conference-low two extra base hits and .152 batting average. On the mound, the returning staff threw walks at twice the rate as strikeouts as well.
Woodward Academy (3-24)
The Knights have opted to sit out the shortened season.