CAMANCHE — The Clinton River Kings are familiar with the baseball teams they’ll have to beat to make a return trip to the state tournament. But, they know they’ll have to execute to make it back to Des Moines later this month.
For the second time in three years, Clinton will open the postseason at Dubuque Senior when the Iowa Class 4A Substate 3 baseball tournament kicks off Friday, July 18.
Senior won the first-round matchup two years ago, but the River Kings beat the Rams in the second round last year on their march all the way to the semifinals of the 4A state tournament at Principal Park in Des Moines.
“We’re going to be playing Dubuque Senior at Dubuque Senior, and we’ve competed against them over the past three years,” Clinton coach Kevin Cunningham said Tuesday after the pairings were announced. “This will be the third year in a row we’ve played Dubuque Senior, the second time we’ve played them in the first round in my three years here.”
Senior isn’t the only familiar face in the six-team substate. The River Kings have played four of the other teams this season and take on the other, North Scott, in a conference doubleheader Thursday in Clinton.
“Every team that we’re playing we’ve competed against and we’ve beat,” Cunningham said.
On the other hand, each has beaten Clinton this year, too. Senior beat the Kings 7-4 on May 30 in Dubuque. The Kings also lost to Dubuque Hempstead, split a double header with Davenport North and have won one of three against Davenport Central.
“You come out and play one game at a time and use all your pitching, and we’re optimistic we can get there (Des Moines),” Cunningham, whose team improved to 11-17-1 with a 13-9 win against Camanche on Tuesday, said. “I look at Davenport North. The last two years they’ve made it to state and have had a losing record. Our goal is to get back.”
The Clinton-Senior game will follow another first-round matchup between North and Hempstead, which starts at 5 p.m., at Petrakis Park.
Mississippi Athletic Conference rivals North Scott and Central meet in the other first-round game, at 7 p.m. that Friday night in Davenport. The highest-seeded first-round winner receives a bye to the final, while the other two winners square off in the semifinal on Monday, July 21.