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Urbandale baseball is going for their third straight state championship while navigating a pandemic

Urbandale High School won the 2019 IHSAA 4A baseball state championship to claim back-to-back state titles. (Courtesy: Jeremy Heinen)

URBANDALE, Iowa (BVM) — Iowa loves baseball. In particular, the Urbandale community has a huge following from the youth level all the way up to their local high school.

“In our community baseball is a big deal. Our little league programs are phenomenal, we’ve got dads and moms that volunteer there and it’s as good as it gets in the state,” Urbandale High School baseball coach Jeremy Heinen said. “Our passion in our community is a big deal.”

The passion and love for baseball has paid off as the J-Hawks have won back-to-back IHSAA 4A state championships, the first consecutive state titles in school history. Heinen, who was named the State Baseball Coach of the Year by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) this January, and his stellar coaching staff is gearing up for a run at a third straight state championship.

“We have high expectations every year, our goal is always to win a state title. … If it happens, it happens,” Heinen said, “But our kids are hungry and I’d say all our competition is hungry to beat us.”

With the target on their back Urbandale will have a tough go at the three-peat, but the team is young and with strong pitching leading the way they’re ready to take on all challengers.

“This team will have the chance to be very successful,” Heinen said. “We have the talent to do it, we’re going to have to do it a little differently than we have the last two years, but I want to say we have close to 300 innings back.”

What this means is the J-Hawks have their best pitchers returning this year. This includes the Lagenburg brothers, Tyler and Tucker. Tyler, a senior, has already signed to play baseball at the University of Iowa next year and Tucker, a junior, looks like he will play at the next level as well. 

Add in other players like junior catcher Gehrig Christensen, another Hawkeye commit, and Urbandale is well on their way to another state title. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has already ended the seasons of many spring athletes, but it hasn’t affected high school baseball and softball players. The IHSAA, following health guidelines, has allowed for the summer baseball and softball season to go on as planned.

“We’re a state that plays summer baseball which sometimes is looked at as a negative, but this year it’s looked at as a positive as long as we can play,” Heinen said.

Practices started June 1 and games began on June 15. There have been changes such as a social distance based team picture and elongated dugouts to allow for the proper spacing. However, Heinen says it hasn’t affected the players.

“It’s baseball,” Heinen said. “You’re just trying to be cognisant of social distancing and doing the best job you can with that.

“I think that the atmosphere has been incredibly positive and energetic. I think there has been big crowds, people are excited to be there.”

These big crowds are within reason as there are limits to the amount of fans that are allowed in the facilities and those let in also have to practice social distancing. Urbandale has set up white dots across their facilities to show small groups of people where they can be. 

With the added safety precautions people are still just happy to have some normalcy return to their lives.

Players, coaches, parents, fans and umpires all glad to have their sport back and are doing their best to make it as safe as possible. 

The J-Hawks are currently the top ranked team in 4A baseball but they still have a lot of season left to go. The postseason won’t begin until July 17. However, the most important thing to all those involved is that the season is happening.

“I was just incredibly excited that the kids were getting this opportunity to get back on the field and to see if we could do this in a safe way,” Heinen said. “It’s been really good, it’s been different. I think for the most part it’s just been awesome to get back out there.”

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