DES MOINES — Sioux City Heelan is the same baseball team it was a week ago, a group of guys enjoying a terrific summer yet still thirsts for more.
What happened in the span of that week may have changed the perception of the Crusaders for some, but it hasn’t changed their mindset.
After a surreal substate final that was the buzz of the state for several days, top-rated, top-seeded Heelan (34-4) resumes its pursuit of a Class 3-A state baseball title Tuesday at 2 p.m. in a quarterfinal game against unrated Williamsburg (20-18) at Principal Park.
Heelan thought it had lost an 8-5, 11-inning substate game to No. 5 Le Mars. However, the Crusaders protested the Bulldogs’ use of a pitcher who wasn’t yet eligible to throw again. The Iowa High School Athletic Association ruled the outcome a 7-0 victory by forfeit for Heelan.
Heelan coach Andy Osborne said his team spent the first hour of its next practice on Friday rehashing the bizarre finish. Since then, it’s been all business.
“We’ve been focusing on who we are and what’s made us such a successful team this summer,’’ he said. “I wanted to make sure we turned the page, and I think the last two practices we’ve done that.’’
In its 15th state appearance, Heelan is seeking to add to its championships in 2001 and 2005. Based on the regular season, the Crusaders appear to compare favorably to those clubs. Heelan owns a win at 4-A No. 1 Ankeny and swept 4-A qualifier Sioux City East on the road to securing the Missouri River Conference title.
“If we can get back to being that team, we’ve got a real shot,’’ Osborne said.
Heelan’s versatile attack boasts three players with at least 30 RBIs: juniors Philip Jacobson (37), Tyler Cropley (34) and Trenton Solsma (31). It also has three with at least 20 stolen bases: juniors Conner Niles (36), Brady Mayo (26) and Jacobson (20).
Osborne said Cropley (6-0, 1.90 ERA) will get the start. “He’s been our No. 1 all year,’’ he said.
Many of the Crusaders experienced the full range of emotions at state last year, beating second-round draft pick Alec Rash of ADM 5-3 before losing 7-2 to Decorah in the semifinals.
“Our kids left that ballpark feeling like they don’t ever want to feel that way again,’’ Osborne said.
The Heelan coach knows he and his players haven’t heard the last of the Le Mars talk. By the end of the week, he hopes the buzz has been transferred to the performance of his squad. That can only come with shoring up their mistakes.
“If we learned anything from the Le Mars thing, it’s that we’re vulnerable,’’ he said. “There’s stuff that we still need to do better.’’