Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
OSKALOOSA — The seventh-ranked New London baseball team has won 25 games over the 2020-21 season. One more, and they’ll be in the field at the Class 1A state baseball tournament.
The Tigers have been one of the top teams in the area from the word ‘go.’ In their first three games of the year, they won by a combined total of 67-0. Those were the first three in an 18-game winning streak, which saw New London win every single game in the month of June.
The Tigers’ lone stumble this year was a 4-0 loss to West Burlington on July 1. Since then, New London won seven straight. Included in that was a 4-3 comeback victory over Sigourney in Saturday’s Substate 5 semifinal.
Mount Ayr didn’t have an ideal start to the year, falling 6-3 to Clarke in its opener, but since then, the Raiders have been fantastic. With a 21-4 record, the Raiders are a formidable opponent for the top-seeded Tigers, especially after scoring an 8-2 comeback win over second-seeded Martensdale-St. Mary’s in the substate semifinals.
Three of Mount Ayr’s four losses this year came before midseason. Since then, the Raiders are 13-1.
New London comes into the game ranked seventh in Class 1A, though three teams ahead of them (No. 1 Newman Catholic, No. 2 North Linn and No. 6 Don Bosco) have all lost, so a victory would most likely put the Tigers in a Top-4 seed at the state tournament.
New London is currently third in Varsity Bound’s Class 1A Power Index, second among teams still in the field. Mount Ayr sits at 13th in Class 1A.
New London’s offense is led by Josh Catala, who bats .455 with three triples, two home runs and 25 RBIs. Tucker Gibbar is hitting .438 with three triples and 30 RBIs. Camden Kasel also sits above .400, at .427, with 14 RBIs.
Hecniel Rodriguez is batting .338, which is just eighth for the Tigers, but he leads the squad with four home runs and 22 RBIs.
Catala’s ERA sits at 0.81 after throwing 73 pitches against Sigourney. Rodriguez has a 1.35 ERA and 42 strikeouts. Kooper Schulte has thrown just 92 pitches this season but has yet to give up a run in the closer role.
Mount Ayr has quite the offense of its own, led by sophomore sensation Jaixen Frost. Frost is hitting .632 with eight home runs and 47 RBIs.
Frost is the only player in the state to hit over .600. The next-best average on Mount Ayr’s team belongs senior Erik Trujillo, who hits .364 with one homer and 19 RBIs. Jace Gross, a junior, is hitting .354 with three homers and 19 RBIs.
Like New London, Mount Ayr has a stellar group of pitchers. None of the six players who has seen time on the Raiders’ mound has worse than a 2.39 ERA.
Mount Ayr will not be able to use Jayson Knight, who has been the most-used pitcher for the team with a 1.63 ERA, a 7-1 record and a team-leading 64 strikeouts. He threw more than 100 pitches in the substate semifinals.
Still, the Raiders have plenty of arms. Jace Gross is 3-0 with a 0.66 ERA. Frost is 2-2 with a 0.74 ERA. Briar Knapp is 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA, and Dawson Swank is 3-0 with a 2.39 ERA.
The Tigers and Raiders will face off at Oskaloosa High School at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night. The winners will be in Carroll for the Class 1A state baseball tournament, which runs from Monday, July 26 to Thursday, July 29.