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CEDAR RAPIDS — Todd Rima knew he landed a special player when Korry Howell decided to continue his baseball career at Kirkwood.
Not even Rima predicted the impact the 18-year-old from Chicago, Ill., has had on the Eagles lineup, leading or sharing team bests in at least eight categories.
“We thought we were getting a really good player,” Rima said after the Eagles dropped a doubleheader, 12-4 and 10-8 in 10 innings, to DMACC Saturday at home. “We got something better than what we even thought. He’s been everything to us as far as showing up and playing hard every day.”
Howell finished with five total hits Saturday, going 4-for-5 in the nightcap where he showed his versatility at the plate. He led off the game with a solo home run over the left-field fence, tying Tyler Bordner for the team lead with seven homers. Howell added an RBI single the following inning and then giving Kirkwood (18-9) a chance to win game two by beating out an infield hit to lead off the ninth.
“Korry is a special talent,” Rima said. “He’s a guy that gets us going offensively. He can really run. For a guy that runs the way he does and to have the pop in his bat, it makes him a special kid.”
Howell is the lone Eagle to play in all 26 games, leading the team in runs (38), hits (41), stolen bases and batting average. He has started the spring hot, overcoming some batting struggles when he reached campus in the fall. Howell said Rima and assistant Ron Benich helped correct some mechanics. He is more fluid and relaxed at the plate.
“They fixed my swing when I got here,” said Howell, who owns a team-high .436 batting average. “I could barely hit the ball out of the infield. Now, I’m hitting the ball over the fence. Everything just flows better.”
Howell has been as impressive on the base paths as with the bat, averaging almost one stolen base per game. He has 26 steals in 29 attempts. Howell has worked hard — like he did with hitting — to become quicker. He trimmed more than a second from his 60-yard dash time, coming in at 6.5 seconds now.
“It’s just the confidence factor,” Howell said about his stolen base success. “You get a good jump no one can throw me out. It’s all mental.”
Rima added, “He gets to top speed really fast. He’s different from the guys I’ve coached on the past. He’s very gifted on the bases.”
Rima said Howell is as enjoyable off the field as he is to watch on it. Rima said he likes to have fun, ribbing Rima at times. Howell always brings a smile to the ballpark, which started as early as about 4 years old in youth leagues.
“That’s just my personality,” Howell said. “I try not to bring negativity to everything. Baseball is just one thing I’ve always loved. I’ve never been an angry baseball player.”
The passion for the sport was fueled by his family. Howell’s father, Kerry, and his brother all played baseball in high school. Kerry Howell attends the occasional game and even follow the team on its spring break trip to Florida. Howell said his mother, Cassandra, has been a big supporter over the years. She was there Saturday, cheering him as he led the Eagles’ offense.
Baseball has been an opportunity for them to bond.
“It’s something my dad, brother and I always shared,” Howell said. “It’s fun for me.
“My dad and I just love sitting down and watching a baseball game.”
The goal for Howell is to one day taking the field for a Major League Baseball team. He is determined to put in the work now and make it pay dividends in the future. Rima said Howell is nowhere near his ceiling and the sky is the limit.
“He’s going to go on and play at an extremely high level,” Rima said. “He’s got a chance to do special things. We just have to continue to work to make him better.”
DMACC (10-13) scored seven runs in the third and cruised to the victory in the opener. The Bears had three-run frames in the third and sixth of the nightcap. Mike Michalak ripped a two-run single in the top of the 10th, scoring former Williamsburg prep Noah Heitshusen and Luke Fegen for the decisive runs. Heitshusen finished with four hits, including the leadoff double in the final inning.
“To their credit, they really came out to play in game one,” Rima said. “They played better than us.”
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