CEDAR RAPIDS — Sometimes when baseball games change, they really change.
No, you don't understand. They can really, really, really, really change.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy won the 2014 Bob Vrbicek Metro Tournament with a 20-10 championship game win last night over Cedar Rapids Jefferson at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
There's your bottom line.
Figuring out and describing how the Cougars got there? That takes a few minutes.
“These kids, there is no quit in them. I'm proud of them,” said Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer. “The teams before them, that's what they've done. These guys are carrying that forward. They don't go away easily.”
Or go away at all, as the case was last night. Believe it or not, with a lean toward not, Kennedy (3-0) trailed in the fifth inning, 8-1, only to score 19 runs in its final two at-bats.
That included a one-for-the-ages 14-run sixth that ended things via mercy rule. The Cougars batted around twice, walking five times and collecting 11 hits.
Jimmy Cunningham's single to left field scored Ben Sass to end the game and a 30-plus minute half-inning. Amazing.
“I've never seen anything like it,” said Kennedy's Derek Jacobus. “Scoring 14 runs? We sure weren't thinking about that. We were just trying to get the lead there.”
“It was just a matter of if we could shut them down,” Hoyer said, with a smile. “They put two up there in the top of the sixth, and it was like 'Well, I don't know.' But that bottom of the sixth, that was legendary.”
Jefferson (2-1) blasted Linn-Mar, 11-0, in a five-inning semifinal that preceded the memorable nightcap. The J-Hawks had 15 hits, including three triples in the first inning alone.
Their bats continued to scorch early against Kennedy, with a two-run home run to left by Marcus Colbert highlighting a four-run first. When Jared Eivins lofted one onto the porch in left field for a solo homer in the top of the fifth, it appeared Jefferson was the team poised to win with a mercy rule.
But Kennedy knocked out starting pitcher Eivins with a five-run fifth, all the runs unearned and coming with two outs. Spencer Hunt's two-run double in the sixth made it a 10-6 game, but the wheels came completely off for Jefferson in the bottom half.
Of course, Kennedy was kicking at them pretty hard.
“We practice our mental conditioning,” Sass said. “You've just got to block out the last play and move on to the next one. We knew we had them where we wanted them as soon as we started hitting the ball.”
“Obviously you don't see a 14-run inning,” said Jefferson Coach Kyle Rodenkirk. “I didn't know what was going on. I was kind of praying for an out there, but it didn't happen. Tip your hat to those guys, though. They battled. We look forward to seeing them later on in the season.”
Sophomore Spencer Van Scoyoc went 2-for-2 with a double, triple and two RBIs, following up a game against Linn-Mar in which he had two doubles and a triple. There's a lot to like about an improved Jefferson club that went just 12-27 in 2013, Rodenkirk's first season.
The coach somehow got his beleaguered team to chuckle in a lengthy postgame meeting in right field.
“Baseball is such a weird sport,” he said. “It's almost like golf. I told them if I had my clubs, I'd have been chucking them the way I was playing there ... But it's the second day of the season. I don't expect them to be major league ballplayers. I just expect them to make routine plays.”