HS Baseball: Kennedy Hangs On To Beat Iowa City High
By K.J. Pilcher (Story) and Josh Christensen (Video)
CEDAR RAPIDS – Cedar Rapids Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer may have a little more white hair the next time he looks in the mirror.
It is a good bet his Cougars chased away any remaining traces of his color under his baseball cap.
Kennedy let a commanding five-run lead slip away but rebounded for a hard-fought 7-6 victory over Iowa City High in an Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 4A substate 6 first round game Friday night at Kennedy.
When Cougars shortstop Derek Jacobus made spinning throws to first on grounders up the middle for the last two outs, Hoyer was able to exhale and look forward to a second-round game at Linn-Mar on Monday at 7 p.m.
“You could just see it was going to be one of those back and forth battles that are so fun to watch in high school baseball,” Hoyer said. “Fortunately, we came out on top and made some big plays at big moments of the game.”
City High (17-22) erased a 6-1 deficit, tying the game in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run single to right field by Eric Kenney. The Cougars (22-18) wasted little time answering, claiming the lead for good the next inning.
“That’s the most rewarding things about this win,” Hoyer said. “They’re a veteran team and we’re relatively inexperienced. Our guys just kept battling.”
“They focused on the things they could control and playing one pitch at a time.”
Matt Stevens smacked a base hit that dropped in front of a diving center fielder. He took advantage of a couple Little Hawk miscues, moving to second on a wild pick-off throw and advancing to third on a wild pitch.
Jacobus hit a chopper up the middle, but Stevens scored as Jacobus was thrown out at first. It proved to be the decisive run.
“That was a great read,” Hoyer said of Stevens. “The groundball went over the pitcher’s head and the shortstop having to go quite a ways to grab it. He took a chance and scored.”
The Cougars weren’t fazed as City High exploded for a three-run fourth, including an RBI single by Grant Simpson and a two-run double to right field by Mitch Hesler.
Sammy Lizarraga settled down after giving up the tying runs, relieving starter Zach Daniels, who threw the first four innings. Lizarraga got the win, putting the Little Hawks down in order in the seventh.
“Momentum is a big part of the game,” Jacobus said. “You just have to take it pitch-by-pitch. I don’t think we were ever down.
“We have great pitchers out there. We got a run back and pulled it out.”
City High threatened in the sixth as well, loading the bases with two outs. The Little Hawks sandwiched Sam Mrstik between walks to Jack Frakes and Josh Crosby. Jacobus cut off a grounder by Tyler Stika and got the force at second to end the rally.
Jacobus’ defense propelled the Cougars through the last two innings.
“He’s something else,” Hoyer said. “He’s got a lot of athleticism. Big-time players make big-time plays.”
Kennedy took control early with a four-run second inning, batting all nine starters. The Cougars received hits from Tony Maiers and Sammy Lizarraga, whose RBI single scored Brock Skow, who had one of three Kennedy walks in the inning.
The Cougars added two more in the fourth. Jared Stanton led off with a single and scored when Jacobus reached on a throwing error. Jacobus scored on Zach Daniels’ base hit.
Jacobus was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Daniels and Staton had two hits apiece. All but three Kennedy starters had a hit.
“We really like our lineup,” Hoyer said. “We have some kids that can provide some quality at-bats.”
The Little Hawks matched the Cougars with nine hits. Mrstik and Simpson had two hits apiece. Kenney and Hesler led City High with two RBIs with Simpson adding one. Along with J.J. Gevock, they tallied five hits and five RBIs from the No. 6 to No. 9 spots in the batting order.
“The bottom of the order did a tremendous job,” City High Coach Brian Mitchell said. “The top came through as well. It was all-around. Our kids swung the bat and we had a god approach.”
The Little Hawks fought to the very end. They didn’t fold and put themselves in position to win. Mitchell said his team made some mistakes, but made a strong effort.
“Our kids came back and competed and gave ourselves an opportunity,” said Mitchell, noting five errors were hard to overcome. “They made some terrific plays there. It wasn’t for a lack of us getting after it and being aggressive.”
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