Ravens soaring high in baseball, and golf

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 6/17/23

Two days after Hillcrest Academy’s golf team won its first state championship in Ames, they were on a baseball field opening the summer season against Danville.

The Ravens scored 18 runs.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Ravens soaring high in baseball, and golf


Two days after Hillcrest Academy’s golf team won its first state championship in Ames, they were on a baseball field opening the summer season against Danville.

The Ravens scored 18 runs.

On the same day that members of the golf team won a district golf title, they were also at baseball practice that same day taking ground balls and chasing fly balls while still wearing their golf attire.

“That’s the type of guys they are,” said Hillcrest baseball head coach Danny Hershberger. “They understand that they’ve got to be prepared and they care about being good at whatever sport they’re in and doing the work that it takes to be that way.”

At Hillcrest, a small private school nestled in southwestern Johnson County, athletes play everything and the parents you see at a basketball game are the same ones you’ll see at baseball and cross country and golf and soccer. The school, which rebranded to Hillcrest Academy from Iowa Mennonite School just a few years ago, is one of the smallest in the Iowa High School Athletic Association.

It is about family. And traditions.

Hershberger played for the IMS state baseball champion in 2007.

His assistant coach, Phil Schintler, is the school’s golf coach.

The school’s principal, Dwight Gingerich, is the boys basketball head coach with more than 700 career wins in his back pocket. All of them came at Hillcrest/IMS.

All of this brings us back to last Friday, June 9, at Lone Tree, when the Ravens baseball team played a doubleheader against one of its rivals in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference.

Rowan Miller, a grandson of the school’s founding golf coach, Phil Ropp, threw his first no-hitter in a 10-0 five-inning victory. It was his first no-hitter in high school. Or JV. Or youth baseball. First. Ever.

“Kind of overwhelming,” he said afterward.

Family? Rowan’s older brother, Noah, combined with Luke Schrock, now a senior on this year’s team, for the Ravens’ last no-hitter two years ago.

And in the second game of a doubleheader sweep at Lone Tree, Hillcrest pitcher Seth Ours gave up just one hit in an 18-0 five-inning victory, nearly making it a double no-no.

As the Ravens scored 28 runs in two games, including 16 in the first inning of the second game, Schintler stood in the first base coaching box enjoying the whole night. Twenty-eight runs in one night? Twenty-two of them were scored by golfers.

“I think having golf with the amazing season that they had and the success they had, the guys are coming in confident and believing in themselves right away,” Hershberger said. “We had one day between state golf and our first game, and guys step up. I think the success of that carried over. That’s great. Seeing guys be confident in what they do, that can only help.”

As of June 17, Luke Schrock, a senior, has the best batting average in the conference and is No. 3 in Iowa 1A, at .562. Grant Bender,  a senior,  ranks No. 1 in the SEISC North with 25 RBIs, and the top five in the conference are all Ravens. Three Raven pitchers have ERAs of less than 1.00, including Miller at 0.00.

The Ravens won their first seven games and enter a game Monday against Burlington Notre Dame at the University of Iowa with a six-game winning streak.

They’ll spend a lot of time together as these June days turn into one game after another. But then, they’re used to it. And they enjoy it. Family.

“They do a lot of things together,” Hershberger said. “They do all the sports together, they’re around each other all the time. Just having kind of that family mentality of, ‘Hey, if my buddy does well, we’re doing well.’

“That’s the most important thing,” he said. “It’s really fun to coach a group of guys like that.”

News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at bowkerpaul1@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul

Hillcrest Academy, baseball, Luke Schrock, Rowan Miller, Grant Bender