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Regional Softball: West Jumps All Over Kennedy

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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Moments after the postgame handshakes, Jessica Harder joined her teammates in a sprint up the hill behind the softball diamond at West High School.

Mom was back.

"It was great to have her here," Harder said. "She loves softball.

"It was good to have her back, and it meant a lot that (my teammates) ran up there to support her, too."

Harder pitched a one-hit shutout, and Iowa City West rapped 13 hits in an 11-0, five-inning blistering of Cedar Rapids Kennedy in a Class 5A regional quarterfinal Thursday night.

Erin Kallsen was 3-for-3 with four RBIs as the Women of Troy (21-19) advanced to play at Iowa City High in a semifinal at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Little Hawks (19-18) drew a first-round bye.

Harder's mother, Michelle, fell down the steep hill that towers to the north and west of the softball diamond. She broke her ankle that night, two weeks ago.

After the Women of Troy made quick work of the Cougars -- it took just 55 minutes -- they bolted up the incline to welcome her back.

It's a happy, confident team full of energy.

"We really believe that we can compete with any team right now," said Harder, who retired the first 12 batters she faced and struck out six. "I felt good tonight, and I owe a lot to my defense."

The bat attack wasn't shabby, either.

West jumped on the Cougars (13-25) for two runs in the first inning. Kallsen, the No. 6 batter, poked a single to plate Adara Opiola and Lauren Larson.

"We came out with a lot of positive energy," Kallsen said. "We're working really hard."

Six more runs came across in the bottom of the third. The Women of Troy started the inning with four straight singles, then Michaela Recker delivered the big blow, a two-run double.

West made it 11-0 in the bottom of the fourth, and nearly ended it there. But Morgan Ryan was caught in a rundown trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run.

Recker added three RBIs for West.

For Kennedy, the defeat spelled the end of Katie Bova's six-year reign as head coach.

"I feel fortunate, and I'm thankful for (Athletics Director) Aaron Stecker and (former principal) Mary Wilcynski for giving me this opportunity," an emotional Bova said.

"West came out with a lot of intensity and jumped on us tonight."

Tanner Rathjens was Kennedy's lone baserunner. She doubled to lead off the top of the fifth.

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