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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Kennedy baseball lineup has plenty of weapons in its arsenal.
The Cougars’ Derek Jacobus owns the tools to provide opponents fits.
He played a vital role, scoring four times including the game-winning run in the nightcap of Class 4A third-ranked Kennedy’s Mississippi Valley Conference doubleheader sweep over Cedar Rapids Xavier last night at Ken Charipar Field. The Cougars won the opener 13-4 and closed with a 1-0 victory.
Jacobus is a three-year starter, serving as leadoff hitter and shortstop with the athleticism that has allowed him to be a four-sport standout and state track champion for the Cougars.
“I think his teammates respect the athleticism and what he brings to the team as a ballplayer,” Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer said. “He’s doing what we need to do.”
His role is to set the table for the offense, wreak havoc on opposing pitches and defenses with his speed on the base paths and have a reliable glove up the middle.
“I think he’s been doing that for a couple years now,” Hoyer said. “He’s been disrupting a lot of pitcher’s rhythm and stealing a few bases with a high rate of success.”
Speed kills and Jacobus used it with two stolen bases and three runs in the opener, tallying three singles. Jacobus, a state medalist in multiple events who will run track for University of Northern Iowa next year, attempts to make things happens with his legs whenever possible.
“All the defenses know when I’m on base they have to make sure I’m not going or going,” Jacobus said. “Just using speed to my advantage and helping the team out on the base paths when they need it.”
Jacobus reached base six times in nine at-bats during the twin bill. The last hit came in the top of the sixth of a scoreless contest. He hit a single to center and advanced to third, scoring on Matt Stevens’ sacrifice fly.
“I was thinking curve ball with the third pitch and I got just got it,” Jacobus said. “I just lined it up the middle. I put pressure on the pitcher. He balked. When I was on second, he took a glide-step and threw it in the dirt so I took third.”
For Jacobus, the baseball season could cap a special year. He was a starter for the Cougars’ state playoff football team, played in the state basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena and he earned three silver medals at the state track meet in May.
“Playing in big games is really what every athlete lives for,” Jacobus said. “To be able to say I’ve gone to state three times my senior year already and have a chance to go a fourth time with baseball and make it in all four sports would be crazy.”
Junior Zach Daniels (5-0) made the one run stand up, scattering five hits and shutting out Xavier for a second time this season. He tossed the Cougars’ 10th shutout of the season, entering the game with an impressive 0.47 earned-run average.
“It’s remarkable what he is doing this year, really,” said Jacobus, who added, “He makes them put the ball in play,” Jacobus said. “The defense does its job.”
He got help from his defense. Ben Sass dove to catch a line drive at third to end the fifth when Xavier threatened with two on base. Daniels also thwarted a rally, catching a popped-up sacrifice bunt and doubling a runner of first in the bottom of the sixth.
“Those are big plays,” Hoyer said. “We made more plays in the second game than the first. It’s good to see us bounce back the second game and make plays like we are capable of making.”
The outing spoiled a strong performance from Xavier lefty Ryan Flaherty. He allowed one run on six hits.
Kennedy won an ugly game in the opener, scoring four times in the fourth for a 6-4 lead. The Cougars broke open the game with seven-run seventh. Tyler Dralle had two hits and three RBIs for Kennedy in Game 1.
Bryce Grimm and Adam Pick each had two hits and scored a run in the doubleheader. Nick Drahozal had two hits and an RBI for Xavier (12-12, 6-10).
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