They have matched wits on the diamond for more than 30 years. More than 50 games, easily. Exira-EHK coach Tony Petersen shook hands with Coon Rapids-Bayard coach John Waddle on Thursday one last time between the white lines. 

Coon Rapids-Bayard coach John Waddle takes pride in his team’s ability to make the most of a poor situation. It’s the main reason the Class 1-A No. 6 Crusaders earned a spot at the state tournament. Two key injuries and a relatively young roster didn’t stand in the way.

To have success at the state baseball tournament, a team must be not only talented but also adaptable. Coon Rapids-Bayard has dealt with its fair share of adversity, yet the Class 1-A No. 6 Crusaders (29-6) continue to find a way to win.

When Josh Esdohr woke up Saturday morning, his arm felt good. That was all the Coon Rapids-Bayard baseball team needed to know. The junior left-hander had pitched portions of CR-B’s first two playoff games Tuesday and Thursday. He felt good enough to make 106 offerings Saturday night as the sixth-ranked Crusaders topped eight-ranked Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton 9-2 in the Iowa Class 1-A, District 16 final.

Kesselring is in his second year as the head coach at Coon Rapids-Bayard, and so far he likes what he sees. The Crusaders knocked off 2012 state champion Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn 35-20 in Week Two and neighborhood rival Guthrie Center 41-7 last week to highlight a 3-0 start.