Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
CARROLL — The Kee Hawks of Kee and the Tigers of New London have a lot of similarities. Both schools are stacked on the offensive side of the ball, both have a stellar pitching staff and both will be at Merchant’s Park in Carroll Monday for the Class 1A state baseball tournament quarterfinals.
Despite being the third-highest ranked team in the field of eight, No. 7 New London (26-1) was given the No. 5 seed after the coaches meeting on Wednesday. Unranked Kee (33-9) was slotted just ahead of the Tigers, with the No. 4 seed.
The Kee Hawks won Substate 2, which had No. 1 Newman Catholic in it until the top-rated Knights were stunned by Northwood-Kensett, 8-3, in the semifinals. Kee had to grind out a 3-1 win over Wapsie Valley in the quarterfinals then scored a late pair to slip past South Winneshiek 4-2, and let loose with a mercy-rule win in the championship game Monday.
Northwood-Kensett came into the Substate 2 final with a 14-14 record. The Kee Hawks showed no mercy, rolling to an 11-0 win in five innings.
New London had to battle for its own spot. The Tigers scored a thrilling 4-3 comeback victory against South Iowa Cedar League champion Sigourney in the Substate 5 semifinas and outlasted Mount Ayr 4-2 in the title game.
New London and Kee are a carbon copy of each other offensively as both have three hitters batting .400 or over.
For New London, Josh Catala hits .462, Tucker Gibbar .427 and Camden Kasel .423. Kee is led by Damon Weber (.446) with Tyson Cota’s .419 average and Dalton Dibert’s even .400.
Much like New London, Kee is junior led. The top six Tigers in batting average are juniors, as are the top six Kee Hawks.
In fact, each team has just one senior on the roster. New London’s Hecniel Rodriguez bats .329 with a team-leading five home runs, seven triples and 37 RBIs. Kee’s Chris Wanger bats .300 with three homers, one triple and 29 RBIs.
New London’s Catala and Rodriguez have been the go-to arms in the later rounds of substate. Catala’s earned-run average sits at a 0.81 with a 4-1 ERA and 31 strikeouts. Rodriguez is a perfect 6-0 with a 1.58 ERA and 51 strikeouts. Kooper Schulte hasn’t allowed a run in any of his relief appearances, earning a win in both the semifinal and quarterfinal.
Kee has relied heavily on the arms of Cota and Dilbert this postseason. Cota is 7-1 with a 0.99 ERA and 6 strikeouts, and Dilbert is 8-2 with a 1.74 ERA and 69 strikeouts.
The winner of Monday’s quarterfinal will either face top-seeded Remsen St. Mary’s or eighth-seeded Grundy Center. In the other half of the bracket, second-seeded St. Albert takes on seventh-seeded Lisbon, and third-seeded Tri-Center plays six seed Alburnett.