Lone Tree beats Highland in 1A baseball tourney opener

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 7/7/24


For the first time in three years, Lone Tree's baseball team is headed to the second round of the Iowa Class 1A baseball tournament.

And for the first time in five years, the …

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Lone Tree beats Highland in 1A baseball tourney opener



When Brody Magruder, a Lone Tree junior, hit a double in the Lions’ opening-round baseball tournament game July 6, he raised his arms above his head in celebration and motioned toward the dugout.

When Lone Tree’s Emmett Burke and Owen Eden scored on a hit, they met at home plate for a celebration.

And when pitcher Jack Patterson, who was just one pitch away from the maximum pitches allowed in a high school game, picked off a Highland runner at second base for the final out of the sixth inning, the Lions danced off the field as if they were in a World Series moment.

Still, head coach Jacob Craven nervously watched as Highland packed the bases in the final inning.

Four words crawled into his head: “Don’t do this now.”

They didn’t, and the Lions finished out a 9-3 win over their rivals to win a Class 1A first-round game for the first time in three years and just one year after they won just one game all year long.

“We’ve had instances this season where it’s been like that, even against those guys,” Craven said. “I was like, we do not need a repeat of that right now. I’m just glad we finished it off.”

They hadn’t beaten Highland since 2019.

“It means a lot,” said Patterson, who struck out nine batters and did have to leave the game with one out in the seventh inning after reaching 110 pitches in the midst of an at-bat. He wound up throwing 111.

The victory advanced Lone Tree (7-13) to a district semifinal against Sigourney.

The Huskies (11-14) had defeated Lone Tree in two previous games this year by a combined score of 27-13. Last year, the Huskies won twice by a combined 27-3. You get the picture.

And then there were youth games in which these kids from Lone Tree and Riverside battled each other.

“Playing with these kids growing up, you know their strengths and weaknesses,” Patterson said. “You know how to get by them.”

The connection even goes to the Lone Tree coaching staff. Assistant coach Mike Eden is a teacher at Highland and Craven is a substitute teacher.

With players from eighth-ranked and host team Sigourney watching, the Lions broke a 2-2 tie in the third inning and scored twice. Then, they piled on four runs in the fifth inning and one in the seventh.

A year ago, the Lions won just once and dropped their last 16 games. The merciful ending came in a 10-run mercy-rule loss to Hillcrest Academy in the opening round of the 1A tournament.

“That hurt those kids, like at this age, high school kids,” Craven said. “It’s tough to come back from 1-and-19, getting 10-runned every night.”

It didn’t show Saturday.

Senior third baseman Ethan Bockelman and freshman second baseman Owen Eden each had three hits and scored once, and Burke, Magruder, Patterson and Brock Nebergall each had two hits.

The victory was Lone Tree’s seventh of the season and second in a row.

“We’re in a comfortable spot, we feel like that we compete,” Craven said. “We’ve been competing all season for the most part with a lot of teams. We have a great group of guys who want to be here.”

For Highland, the loss ended the Huskies’ first season under head coach and Highland High alum Allen Rath, who still holds pitching records at Highland and also at the University of Iowa.

“I enjoyed it,” Rath said. “Basically it was like a learning process. They were trying to figure me out. After a first year, they know what to expect from me.”

The Huskies won 11 games with a starting lineup that included three freshmen and an eighth grader. There was only one senior on the entire roster, meaning a young team returns next year virtually intact.

“We need to get bigger. We need to get faster,” Rath said. “I’ll be watching. I’ll be over there in the weight room to make sure that we’re making some gains.”

Lone Tree, Highland, baseball, Sigourney