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CEDAR RAPIDS — Through five innings, Cedar Rapids Kennedy pitcher Sawyer Neuhaus allowed only one hit.
At game’s end, the Cougars (12-2) had allowed only three hits during an 8-0 rout of Cedar Rapids Washington. Coach Bret Hoyer said pitching has been the cornerstone of a nearly perfect season.
“(Neuhaus) has the stuff to be in the top four; it was just a matter of how consistently he could throw strikes,” Hoyer said. “He’s getting better, and he’s getting more comfortable out there.”
When Neuhaus stepped off the mound in the sixth inning, the Cougars’ No. 1 pitcher entered for his first relief role of the season.
“We just wanted to keep my arm warm,” Samuele Lizarraga said. “We just wanted to keep loose, because I’m pitching in this upcoming week.”
“It’s always better to get them working against live hitters rather than bullpens,” Hoyer said. “And they enjoy it more and get more out of it.”
In his one inning of relief, Lizarraga served up one walk, registered one strikeout and allowed one hit.
Players have been living off their coach’s philosophy that defense not only wins games, but also helps advancement to a healthy spot in the postseason. Confidence was especially high after last night’s victory.
“Defensively, we’re pretty athletic,” Hoyer said. “If our pitching allows our defense to make plays, that’s going to give us a chance to compete with about anybody.”
Lizarraga put it simply.
“We throw strikes and we make routine plays,” he said. “That’s all it takes. We have a lot of good athletes on the team.”
The Cougars say they have a target on their backs with just two losses. Lizarraga said they don’t mind one bit.
“Kennedy has always had the reputation of coming back when they’re down,” Lizarraga said. “We’re just keeping that tradition going.
“We’re always seeing our opponent’s best and they always show up to play.”