Softball: Jefferson Wins Big On Niemeyer's Night

By Jeff Linder (Story) and Josh Christensen (Video), Reporters

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – It's been his field for more than three decades.

Now, a sign beyond the fence in right-center field makes it official.

The Jefferson Softball Complex was renamed Larry Niemeyer Field during a ceremony between games of Wednesday's Mississippi Valley Conference double-header — Class 5A eighth-ranked Cedar Rapids Jefferson swept Waterloo West, 12-0 and 12-0.

"This will always feel like home," Niemeyer said after the ceremony. "But honestly, I feel a little out of place."

The winningest high school softball coach in national history, Niemeyer piled up a career record of 2,089-429 in 52 seasons at Adel and Jefferson. He retired as a teacher at Jefferson in 2011, then spent one more year as a girls basketball coach and softball coach.

He resigned his basketball job after the 2011-12 season, then was relieved of his duties as softball coach after the 2012 season.

Wednesday marked the first time Niemeyer has been at his field this season.

"Jefferson softball has been our life," said Niemeyer's wife, Gwen. "Our girls (Nancee, Noreen and Natalie) played here, and Nick helped him coach here. Before Natalie was born, when the other kids were little, we used to come here on Memorial Day, have a picnic and plant flowers.

"It's always been a family affair."

Jefferson Athletics Director Chris Deam, Booster Club President Mark Fiala and Superintendent Dave Benson spoke before Niemeyer took the podium to a standing ovation.

Predictably, he had trouble containing his emotions.

"I started out OK," he said afterward.

"There are just so many good memories here. I could talk about them for days."

Niemeyer won four state softball championships – the 1970 fall title at Adel, then three summer titles at Jefferson (1983, 1997 and 1998). He coached Jefferson to the state tournament 19 times, most recently in 2009. He also coached the Jefferson girls basketball team to the 1993 state championship.

Waterloo West hired him in October as its softball coach, but he resigned in May after falling ill with kidney disease.

Before Niemeyer started coaching Jefferson in 1979, the J-Hawks played at Jones Park. In his first year, games were played at a field adjacent to the current field.

In 1980, they moved to the current field.

"I wanted a nice place for the kids to play," Niemeyer said. "We built this from scratch. I'm very proud of it."

As for the games, both were extreme mismatches and lasted three innings apiece.

Jefferson (16-5 overall, 9-3 MVC) broke them both open immediately, scoring 10 runs in the first inning of Game 1 and a dozen in the first frame of the nightcap.

"It was certainly an emotional night, and I really compliment the players on how focused they remained after the first game," J-Hawks Coach Brian Erbe said.

Maddie Hansen extended her state-leading RBI total to 41 with four Wednesday, including a three-run double in the second game.

The Valley Division leader heading into Wednesday, West slipped to 5-9 and 5-5.
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