CEDAR RAPIDS — The celebration was short and subdued.
They held a plaque, posed for pictures and huddled quickly. Families gave hugs and pats on the backs, but one of the loudest statements during the postgame came from a Kirkwood player declaring, “We’re not done yet.”
So, they went back to work, taking rakes to their softball diamond and cleaning the dugouts.
It was symbolic of the attitude they shared after throttling the competition en route to an NJCAA Division II Region XI-B title Friday at Kirkwood. The Eagles thumped Southwestern Community College for the second time in three days, posting an 18-1, five-inning victory in the championship game.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Kirkwood’s DoniRae Mayhew said. “That’s what we’re focused on now. We’ll get to the celebration eventually.”
The Eagles (52-4) advance to the best-of-3 district series at a site yet to be determined on May 11-12. District champions advanced to the national tournament. The dancing won’t start until they earn a chance to improve last year’s fifth-place finish.
“We have to win two more to get to nationals, so it’s been like that since we’ve played the districts,” Kirkwood Coach Joe Yegge said. “They know we’re not there yet. We were kind of the same way last year and a couple years ago.”
Kirkwood battered regional pitchers, scoring 50 runs in the three games. The Eagles recorded 38 total against the Spartans. Six came on 11 at-bats in the opening inning Friday.
Lexi Ferrari sparked the Eagles with a home run to lead off the game and added a two-run single in the same frame. Mayhew smacked a two-run double down the third-base line for one of five hits in the first.
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“Hitting is contagious,” Kirkwood sophomore and reigning Player of the Year Taylor Nearad said. “Once Lexi led off with a home run, I definitely think that set the pace for everything.”
Every Kirkwood starter reached base and eight had at least one of the 15 hits.
Six Eagles belted home runs. Monika Bevans ripped a three-run shot in the second, which opened with a solo home run from Maddie Hansen. In the third, Mayhew and Morgan Frost hit back-to-back home runs, including a two-run blast from Mayhew, who had four RBIs.
Nearad smacked a three-run home run in the fourth. Angie McBeain had multiple home runs in the first two games, providing a deep and powerful attack.
“They were dialed in and ready to go,” Yegge said. “They were swinging the bats this week. Probably as good as I’ve seen them all year.”
The competition will get tougher. Hansen, who will play next year at North Dakota State, said she thinks the Eagles can tally a bunch of runs against the best opponents.
“If we come out and we play our game I think we’ll score runs all day against anyone,” Hansen said. “I think if we hit our pitch at the plate, which helps a lot as long as we don’t swing at anything out of the zone, and take advantage.
“Try to get a base hit and not the big hit. Just try to string a lot of little things and the big hits, those home runs, will come.”
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