DES MOINES — For a player whose last official at-bat of the season came a week before the Class 1A title game, Hunter Embray certainly made his presence known on the final day of the high school baseball season.
The Twin Cedars catcher not only found a way to reach base without having to swing the bat in every plate appearance of his final two games at the state, but may have made the biggest impact in Saturday 1A championship simply by making a heads-up decision to take an extra base on a simple ground ball.
By going from first to third on Saturday against Newman Catholic, Embray was able to score on a wild pitch for the all-important first run of the state title game. It was one of five runs Embray would score for the Sabers on their way to completing the 11th perfect season in state baseball history by winning the first state title in Twin Cedars history.
Those types of plays are what made Embray a leader of the state champion Sabers. It’s also what made him the selection for Class 1A INA All State captain.
"We wanted to be the first team in the history of our school to bring home that state championship. It's something that drove all of us as team this past season," Embray said after helping the Sabers win the Class 1A State Baseball title. "It's awesome. It's the best thing I've ever been a part of.
"I'm going to be stuck with a smile for at least four days. There's no way I'll be able to stop smiling."
Embray joined Des Moines East Malique Ziegler, Algona’s Weston Shaw and North Polk’s Cole Jackson as All-State baseball captains. Only Jackson and Embray led their respective teams to state titles this summer.
Embray not only handled a four-man pitching rotation that went a combined 36-0, but batted fifth in the powerful Saber lineup. He reached base safely in nine of his 10 at-bats overall during the state tournament and not only scored five times, but also took away a run during the tournament by tagging out Underwood’s Spencer Pingel to complete an inning-ending double play in the Sabers’ 7-0 state quarterfinal win last weekend.
Embray finished the season batting .455, with 40 hits, 37 runs scored, and 35 runs batted in. The senior catcher had nine doubles, five home runs, earned 26 walks and was hit by 12 pitches.
Embray led Twin Cedars’ with a .619 on base percentage. Defensively, he only gave up five stolen bases in 36 games.
Embray will continue his baseball career at Marshalltown Community College in the fall. He was hardly the only member of the historic 2014 Twin Cedars baseball team to earn all-state honors.
Both Otis Roby and Coy Moore, who together went 21-0 with ERA’s of 0.24 and 0.44 respectively, joined the state’s top run-producer as fellow first-team all-state Twin Cedars players along with Embray. Harrell was the lone first baseman on the 1A First Team after hitting .485 at the plate with a state-leading 65 RBI, eight more than South Winneshiek junior Jordan Rommes.
Moore joined Newman Catholic’s Kaden Wadle and Gehlan Catholic senior Blake Wiltgen as a 1A First Team All-State pitcher after going 11-0 this season on the mound. Moore scored the win over Wiltgen on Thursday in the state semifinals, shutting out the Jays on just two hits over five innings with six strikeouts and one hit by pitch while Wiltgen faced just seven Saber hitters, walking five and allowing five first-inning runs.
Roby settled for being a first-team utility selection on the 1A INA All-State team, joining Pleasantville’s Patrick Sheehey as the two utility picks. Roby became the first pitcher in school history to earn the win in a state title game, allowing just no earned runs over 13 1/3 innings of state tournament play including a nine-strikeout effort in the 8-2 win over Newman Catholic Saturday in the 1A Final.
Senior outfielder Brent Parker became the sixth Saber player to earn an all-state selection as the senior was named to the Class 1A third team. Parker hit .398 this season and led Twin Cedars during the state tournament with seven runs driven in, including six RBI against Gehlen Catholic on a pair of bases-clearing doubles in the state semifinals.
Van Buren junior Garrett Saunders earned a place on the 1A All-State INA First Team as one of three infielders to be selected after hitting .504 at the top of the Warrior order with a state-best 52 stolen bases and co-state leading 64 runs scored. Senior Robby Laughlin earned a place on the Class 1A All-State second team as an infielder after finishing right behind Saunders in batting average (.443), slugging percentage (.747) and on-base percentage (.564).
North Mahaska’s Trent Roose was named a second-team INA All-State selection. The Warhawk senior hit .588 at the plate and was also an 11-game winner on the mound with a 0.78 ERA and the second-most strikeouts in the state (125).
In Class 2A, Albia senior Brett Leshen earned his place on the INA All-State First Team as an outfielder to cap a fantastic year and career for the Blue Demons. Leshen, who quarterbacked Albia’s first state semifinal football team, wrestled in multiple state tournaments and was part of a two-time state championship 4x400 relay team, hit .452 and was second in Class 2A with 56 total hits.
Two members of Fairfield’s second-ever state tournament baseball team earned a place on the Class 3A INA All-State First Team. Senior pitcher Joseph Hietpas finished 10-0 this season on the mound with a 0.58 ERA with 116 strikeouts, sixth-most in the state, while senior Austin Gridley was named one of three outfield members to be selected to the 3A first team after batting .417 and the fourth-most home runs (11) in the state.
Senior pitcher Kolton Gonnerman earned a place on the Class 3A All-State Third Team. Gonnerman finished the season 7-0 on the mound with a 1.17 ERA as the staff ace for the Big Reds, who finished a perfect 19-0 in the South Central Conference this past summer.
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