If the Mississippi Valley Conference was any more overdue, they’d have to induce labor.
The 14-school league likes to think it has good prep baseball, and it does. Just this year, Kellen Sweeney of Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Jon Keller of Cedar Rapids Xavier were drafted professionally in the top 11 rounds.
There are annually good players, coaches and teams in the MVC. Yet you have to go back a long way to find its last Class 4A state champion.
Try Cedar Rapids Washington in 1994. And the Warriors were the ultimate Cinderella that season, winning it all despite a 21-15 record.
“I just think it’s one of those things. I don’t why,” Iowa City West Coach Charlie Stumpff said of a 16-year MVC drought. “We were playing well and ran into a real hot pitcher last year (in the state finals). You know we’ve got our three best teams in the league going up there this year. That maybe hasn’t happened in years past.
“There will be a lot of green and gold there.”
Maybe that’ll be turn out to be lucky green and gold. The MVC has 40 percent of the eight-team 4A state tournament field, and West, Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Dubuque Hempstead all wear those colors.
They are paired separately in the quarterfinals: No. 1 seed Hemsptead (32-3) opposing eighth-seed Indianola (20-18) today at noon at Principal Park; West (28-8) getting a rematch of last year’s title game against champion Sioux City North (29-10) at 2 and Kennedy (29-10) starting off the night session with a 6 p.m. game against West Des Moines Dowling (32-8) and MLB drafted pitcher Neil Musser.
“To me, it’s just one of those things that happens,” agreed Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer. “It was like (in the 1990s) when the eastern part of the state was winning all the state football titles. Maybe this will be the year this turns around.”
Oustanding West senior Neil Madsen and Sean Moore also were asked their opinions on 16 years between 4A champs from their conference. They almost simultaneously responded “The CIML.”
“They’re always really good,” Moore said. “Contenders every year.”
The young man has a point. Sioux City North edged past Iowa City West in last year’s 4A championship game, but the list of the rest of the recent champions looks mainly Central Iowa Metro League.
You had an undefeated Johnston teamm in 2008, Urbandale in 2007 and back-t0-back-to-back-to-back titles for West Des Moines Valley from 2003-06. The remaining three winners that decade also were CIMLers Urbandale (2000), West Des Moines Dowling (2001) and Marshalltown (37-6).
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Hempstead Coach Tom Witry. “I think baseball at the high school level just gets better and better and better. The CIML has so many more student-athletes to choose from generally. Maybe that’s a factor.”
Stumpff said he doesn’t think the MVC reguarly gets its best clubs to the state tournament every season, though this year isn’t a different deal. I think the consensus from any of league’s 14 coaches would tell you Hempstead, Kennedy and West are the MVC’s best.
“We’ve got a shot,” Stumpff said. “We’ve got three good teams there … All three of us are deep enough, good enough to win it. You go out there, you hope to play well. Definitely can get it done this year, I think.”
Three rounds of action will tell you for sure if the MVC’s long-awaited 4A state baseball champ is delievered.