CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s hot start to the prep baseball season has been built on the backs of its strong pitching staff, evidenced yet again in the opener of a Mississippi Valley Conference doubleheader last night at Herkelman Field.
Junior Blake Hargens tossed six innings of one-hit ball, walked one and struck out eight as Class 4A No. 3 Kennedy blanked Iowa City High, 8-0, in the opener. The Cougars took the nightcap, 6-3.
“I was locating my pitches well, like my curveball and fastball,” Hargens said. “I wasn’t missing by much.”
It was the ninth shutout of the season for Kennedy (16-2, 12-2 MVC).
“It was nice to see him do what he’s been doing all year,” Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer said. “He’s throwing strikes. He’s hitting the mitt with three different pitches consistently.”
Matt Stevens and Sammy Lizarraga each drove in a pair of runs, while sophomore Tyler Dralle belted a three-run home run in the fifth inning, his first this season.
“It’s a really nice relief,” Hargens (5-0, 1.55 earned run average) said of the ample run support. “You know you can have a little leeway with stuff. You can give up a walk or a hit and it won’t matter that much.”
In the nightcap, the Cougar bats continued to overwhelm City High pitching with runs in each of the first three innings to claim the sweep. A two-run single from junior Zach Daniels pushed Kennedy’s second-inning lead to 4-0. After a bases-loaded double from City High’s Michael Haring pulled the Little Hawks (11-13, 6-8 MVC) within a run at 4-3 in the top of the third, Ethan Divis provided the game’s final margin with his own two-run single in the bottom frame for the Cougars.
“If we pitch and play defense the way we’re capable of, six runs ought to hold up for us,” Hoyer said.
Lefty Sawyer Neuhaus (3-1) surrendered all three runs and three hits in four innings, while reliever Jacob Henry retired all nine batters he faced to slam the door on City High.