BY ETHAN LILLARD
DONNELLSON – Central Lee wasn’t ranked, nearly lost against Davis County in the District Championship game, and were heading to play one of the best teams in Class 2A Tuesday in Wilton.
None of that has slowed down the Hawks.
After defeating Davis County 5-4 in a nail-biter at districts, Central Lee took down No. 1 ranked Wilton 14-0 in five innings in the substate championship, sending the Hawks to Principal Park in Des Moines for its first-round state matchup against Des Moines Christian. Central Lee drew the No. 4 seed in the Class 2A state bracket, while Des Moines Christian was handed the No. 5 seed.
With tournament play around the corner, but still a whole weekend away, Central Lee’s coaches and players all said that regardless of the fact they are heading to state, nothing is changing for them.
“It’s the same old stuff,” Central Lee Head Coach Shane Weirather said Wednesday. “That’s been the message all year, same old stuff. Keep it simple. It’s not basketball where you’re going to press, it’s not football where you’re going to play a completely different defense.
“You’ve got to field the ball cleanly, make good throws, you’ve got to make strikes. It’s just the normal things and it’s the normal things that you have to do better than the other team to win.”
The message was the same from the players when asked if there was anything that was going to change in terms of routines or practices leading up to Monday’s opening-round contest.
“We’ll probably just be doing the same thing as we’ve always done,” Central Lee senior captain Tyler Hopp said. “It’s the same routine as always, try not to change anything up.
“We won’t be doing anything different really. Just getting a goodnight’s sleep in our bed and waking up and having a long bus ride. That shouldn’t be too bad, but getting up there and just preparing for the game, nothing too extra.”
Des Moines Christian’s top hitter is senior Brett Shelton, hitting .455 with 40 RBIs. Grant Christy, also a senior, is hitting .404 with six doubles, three triples and two home runs. Frankie Accurso, yet another senior, is hitting .324 with six doubles. Sophomore Dalton Lewis is hitting 294, but has more than 20 stolen bases on the year to lead the team.
Looking over the tale of the tape, it would be easy for any opponent to be intimidated by DMC’s season stats.
Shelton figures to be the starting pitcher for Des Moines Monday, sporting a 9-1 record from the mound with a .083 ERA. He’s also collected 81 strikeouts and walked just 13 batters so far on the season. Shelton held opponents to a slim .131 batting average over the course of his 59 innings pitched.
DMC has 12 shutouts this year. Two of the team’s eight losses have come against 5th ranked Van Meter (the No. 2 seed) in close contests with the final scores of 3-4 and 5-7. Other losses include Madrid, Ogden and Martensdale-St. Mary’s.
Des Moines Christian has allowed just six runs over the past five contests and five of those were in a 6-5 win over Woodward Granger Saturday. Their last loss came July 9th against Martensdale.
Those stats won’t intimidated Central Lee, as nearly every player in the starting lineup is averaging over .300 on the season.
Tyler Hopp has a .463 average, a .522 on base percentage, 37 runs scored, 18 RBI, two home runs and 31 stolen bases. Jadon Hawk has a batting average of .424 on the year to go with 26 RBI and 16 runs with an OBP of .487. Sam Hirner is averaging .387 with a .484 OBP, 31 runs scored and 26 RBIs with seven doubles. Luke Simmons is averaging .387 with an .536 OBP and 26 RBIs. Alex Sandoval has a .351 average with a .487 OBP and 26 RBIs. KJ Skow sports a .343 average, a .427 OBP to go with 26 runs and 27 RBIs. TJ Stutes has an average of .333 with 15 RBIs with a .465 OBP and Evan Pohren has a .333 average and a .452 OBP.
Waylon Weirather figures to draw the start against Shelton, sporting an 8-1 record with a .79 ERA while holding opponents to a .197 batting average.
“Yeah, you look at it,” Weirather said about checking into Des Moines stats. “It’s really the only thing you’ve got to try to find out anything about them. You can look at speed, you can look at all kinds of things on there, but it really comes down to how we play. Less about them and more about us is the way I try to spin it for our kids. They’re pretty versed in QuikStats and they’ll come up with all kinds of stats for me, too.”
One of the biggest things the Hawks have going for them is the fact they flew under the radar all season long and the presence of the home town crowd that showed up in droves to the substate championship. Weirather said having that hometown crowd in attendance again Monday will be a huge benefit for his squad.
“I think it’s big,” Weirather said. “When you look around and see familiar faces, and they’re cheering for you, and you go into a place that you’re not familiar with like Principal Park, it’s got to help seeing some familiar faces and people cheering you on.
“I hope people show up like they did at Washington. It was a really good scene, great atmosphere during the game and after the game with people coming out and taking pictures of the state banner and all that. It was really nice to see everybody there and everybody enjoying the moment.”
For those that didn’t follow Central Lee’s season, it’s easy to think the small-town team is blowing away any expectations anyone could have ever imagined. But for the Hawks, this has been the goal all along.
“That was definitely the goal all season,” senior captain Sam Hirner said. “We’ve been working towards it since December whenever we would go to the Montrose gym and hit indoors during the offseason.