Tanner Felton switched positions out of necessity.
After an all-state junior year in left field for the Monticello Panthers, Felton unselfishly moved behind the plate to close out his high school career. He did it with impressive results, earning another first-team spot on the Iowa Newspaper Association Class 2A all-state baseball team.
“He did a tremendous job,” Monticello Coach Josh Soper said. “Not only with blocking and calling a game, but shutting the running game down. And being kind of a calming confidence for those kids knowing that, ‘Hey, I am there for you.’”
Despite the daily rigors that come with catching several games a week during the summer months, Felton — who will attend Iowa Central this fall with aspirations of eventually playing Division I — improved in a number of key offensive categories. He upped his batting average nearly 30 points to .495 while slugging seven home runs with 44 RBIs. All three ranked in the top six in all of Class 2A.
“In my time as a coach, I think he’s a once-in-a-decade or two-decade hitter,” Soper said. “There’s been games where he single-handedly just put us on his back and willed us to victory. ... If the pitching got better, if the situation got bigger, he always delivered.”
State runner-up Dyersville Beckman (29-14) placed two on the Class 2A first team, led by senior outfielder Mitch Steger (.394 batting average, 33 RBIs, 37 stolen bases). Junior Conner Klostermann made first team as a utility player for a Blazers squad that was a game away from a third-straight state championship.
“Between all the guys that we had, those two guys were down there all three times,” Beckman Coach Tom Jenk Jr. said. “They had that opportunity to play for that legitimate three-peat.”
The Class 4A first team was led by infielder Zach Daniels and pitcher Sammy Lizarraga of Cedar Rapids Kennedy (31-7). Daniels was spectacular all season for the Cougars, both on the mound and at the plate. The junior led the Cougars in hits, RBIs and earned run average. Lizarraga was unbeaten on the mound until the Class 4A state quarterfinal.
“They’re beneficiaries of having some tremendous teammates,” Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer said. “Put themselves in position to put up some pretty impressive numbers.”
Joining the Kennedy pair on the 4A first team is Iowa City West catcher Devin Raffensperger. Infielders Jordan Rommes (South Winneshiek) and Riley Dixon (Iowa City Regina) earned first-team nods in 2A, while BGM outfielder Kyle Gritsch was the lone area representative in 1A.
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