Poised for another potential deep postseason run, the fourth-ranked (Class 2A) St. Edmond baseball team will battle North Central Conference nemesis Eagle Grove in a Class 2A, District 3 semifinal here this evening.
First pitch is set for 7 p.m. at Rogers Sports Complex.
Despite dropping a 3-2 decision at Iowa Falls-Alden in their regular-season finale a week ago, the Gaels (21-8 overall) enter tournament play with eight wins in their last 11 games.
"This is a different (tournament) format than what we're used to, but we only have to win three games now to go to state," SEHS head coach Joe Shanks said. "We know we have to get that first (victory), and that's where all our concentration and focus is at right now - especially with a program that has had as much past success and knows us as well as Eagle Grove."
In their earlier meeting this season, the Gaels posted a convincing 12-2 five-inning home triumph over the Eagles. The second scheduled contest between the two schools was called early due to inclement weather conditions.
Spearheading the St. Edmond offensive charge are junior David Flattery (.558 BA, 43 H, 32 RBI, 23 R), junior Tommy Setterdahl (.447 BA, 38 H, 29 RBI, 25 R), sophomore Hank Crimmins (.434 BA, 33 H, 22 RBI, 20 R) and senior Nick Clark (.408 BA, 42 H, 31 R, 17 RBI).
The Gaels come in averaging 8.1 runs per contest and have scored in double figures 12 times on the season.
"At this time last year I thought we were in a little bit of a slump at the plate and just not real sharp, but I feel better with how we look this season," said Shanks. "Our guys have really been driving the ball and seem to be on an upswing right now."
Ace right-hander David Flattery (2-1) will receive the starting nod on the mound. Flattery sports a 3.15 ERA - with 35 strikeouts - in 20 innings pitched.
"David has been on the mend (from a MCL tear) and his knee doesn't seem to be causing him too many problems," Shanks said. "If he can't go the distance, we have Neil (Flattery), Nick and Hank all capable of relieving. Those are the four pitchers we're going to try and use in the tournament."
Following seven consecutive setbacks to close out the regular season, the Eagles (7-19) blanked South Central Calhoun by a 1-0 count in their tournament opener.
Top threats for Eagle Grove are senior Sean Halverson (.393 BA, 24 H, 14 RBI), sophomore Dylan Thielen (.313 BA, 15 H), sophomore Cole Beecher (.304 BA, 21 H) and freshman Kent Jorgensen (.292 BA, 14 H, 11 RBI).
Brennan Cameron, a junior, will likely toe the rubber for the Eagles. Cameron (3-7) has compiled a 3.33 ERA, while limiting opponents to a .239 average.
"Cameron throws strikes and has a nice curveball," said Shanks. "(EGHS) coach (Bruce) Rholl has been around and will have his kids ready to play.
"It should be a fun game, and we're looking forward to it."
This evening's winner advances to face either Clarion-Goldfield (13-15) or Hampton-Dumont (11-17) in a 2A, District 3 final here Saturday at 7 p.m.