Area softball Super 10: Cedar Rapids Jefferson begins 2017 on top

Jefferson leads a 1-2-3 Metro sweep in the season's first list

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In honor of the first day of high-school softball practice in Iowa, here’s an area Super Ten to kick things off:

 

1.

Cedar Rapids Jefferson

2016: 31-9, 5A regional finalist

It promises to be a strong year within the Metro, and give the J-Hawks a slight edge based on their returning corps. Nine starters are back, including the entire pitching staff. Jefferson is prolific offensively; the J-Hawks were third (all classes) in batting average (.432), second in slugging percentage (.632) and numero uno in on-base percentage (.495). Easy to see why they averaged 8.9 runs per contest.

 
2.

Cedar Rapids Kennedy

2016: 37-5, 5A regional finalist

Cougars enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2016 that ended with a No. 1 ranking in 5A, but they were upset by Cedar Rapids Prairie in the regional finals. Coach Dan Gratz has moved on and will be succeeded by Maddison LeClere, who inherits a talented nucleus led by University of Iowa recruit Ashley Hamilton.

 
3.

Cedar Rapids Prairie

2016: 28-15, 5A state qualifier (5th place)

Prairie hadn’t sniffed the state tournament until Joe Yegge took the reins, and now the Hawks have their sights set on a third state trip in a five-year stretch. Senior pitcher Natalie Halvorson was 20-9 last year, and there’s good talent around her.

 
4.

Solon

2016: 34-10, 3A state qualifier (3rd place)

Jim White needs 35 wins to reach 1,000 for his career, and it’s not a bad bet that he’ll get there. Senior pitcher McKenna Miller (22-5) won’t overpower you, but also won’t beat herself. The Spartans lost some big sticks to graduation, but you know they’ll reload.

 
5.

Lansing Kee

2016: 39-6, 1A state champion

Hawks had the moment of the state tournament last year with their premature celebration. Nine starters are back — including two of the three Cooper girls — as they bid to celebrate again. Kee outscored its competition by a 356-77 margin.

 
6.

Benton Community

2016: 43-2, 3A state champion

Amber Fiser and Alyssa Wiebel are shining at the Division-I level now, and it’s unavoidable that the Bobcats will take a slight step back this season. But it won’t be a big step, because Benton remains formidable offensively. A stride up to Class 4A isn’t a bad thing; 3A will be stronger in the area that 4A.

 
7.

Center Point-Urbana

2016: 22-18, 3A regional finalist

Looking for a darkhorse? Look no further. Everybody returns from last season, and then some. Maddie Karr comes back from a knee injury that robbed her of her 2016 campaign; she hit 16 home runs as a freshman. If the pitching progresses, CPU could be a load.

 
8.

Iowa City Regina

2016: 28-18, 2A state runner-up

Regals have advanced to the 2A state finals each of the past two years. Van Meter foiled their repeat aspirations with a 3-0 win last July. Sarah Lehman is a good strikeout pitcher. The Regals will take their knocks against big-school competition during the year, but that competition will harden them for another big run in July.

 
9.

Iowa City West

2016: 31-11, 5A regional finalist

West remains stuck at just one state-tournament appearance after bowing out in the regional finals last year. The Women of Troy lost some strong talent due to graduation, but UNI recruit Taleah Smith (47 steals in 2016) will continue to torment foes with her speed.

 
10.

West Delaware

2016: 31-11, 4A regional finalist

The Hawks drop down a class and join the 3A fray. They lost their No. 1 pitcher (Kristen Wegmann) to graduation, but return virtually intact other than that. The defending Wamac East champion, West Delaware figures to challenge Solon for the crown this summer, as do Dyersville Beckman and Mount Vernon.

 

AREA CLASS RANKINGS

Class 5A — 1. C.R. Jefferson (31-9), 2. C.R. Kennedy (37-5), 3. C.R. Prairie (28-15), 4. Iowa City West (31-11), 5. Linn-Mar (26-15).

Class 4A — 1. Benton Community (43-2), 2. C.R. Xavier (18-25), 3. Western Dubuque (19-20), 4. Independence (17-23), 5. Clear Creek Amana (19-22).

Class 3A — 1. Solon (34-10), 2. Center Point-Urbana (22-18), 3. West Delaware (31-11), 4. Dyersville Beckman (26-11), 5. Mount Vernon (30-15).

Class 2A — 1. Iowa City Regina (28-18), 2. Cascade (33-6), 3. Alburnett (30-8), 4. North Linn (30-11), 5. Jesup (20-14).

Class 1A — 1. Lansing Kee (39-6), 2. Belle Plaine (21-12), 3. Sigourney (16-12), 4. Central City (24-18), 5. Montezuma (15-14).

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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