Linn-Mar riding a wave of momentum

Softball: Lions take a hot streak to regional semifinal at Jefferson

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After hovering around the .500 mark for the first half of the softball season, Linn-Mar’s fork in the road came in Urbandale in mid-June.

“We had just lost to Johnston, and we were 12-11,” Coach John Begley said. “Was everything going to go downhill, or were we going to get better?”

The Lions chose the latter. They won their next eight games, starting a spree of 14 wins in 17 games that featured victories over Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Iowa City West.

“We got some confidence, and our pitching improved,” Begley said.

Now in the Class 5A rankings for the first time this season at No. 15, Linn-Mar (26-14) takes its we-can-beat-anybody mentality to No. 9 Cedar Rapids Jefferson (30-8) for a regional semifinal Saturday. First pitch is 7 p.m. at Larry Niemeyer Field.

It’s the area’s best matchup as 4A and 5A regionals reach the semifinal round. Saturday’s winners play for state-tournament berths Tuesday.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Jefferson Coach Brian Erbe said. “It’s going to be a tough game. John’s certainly got them playing well right now.”

The J-Hawks swept the regular-season doubleheader, 5-4 and 12-0.

“Our pitching has gotten a lot better at hitting spots,” Begley said. “Morgan (Braughton) has had some really good games lately.”

Kennedy (36-4), which climbed to No. 1 in the final IGHSAU rankings, earned its first MVC divisional title in 20 years, claiming the Valley championship. Cedar Rapids Prairie (24-14) is the Mississippi Division champ. If both win Saturday — Kennedy hosts Iowa City High (12-29); Prairie entertains Burlington (26-12) — they’ll tangle in a regional final Tuesday.

In other games Saturday involving Metro/Iowa City teams, Cedar Rapids Washington (14-24) travels to No. 6 Iowa City West (30-10) in 5A and Cedar Rapids Xavier (17-24) is at Pella (15-18) in 4A.

CLASS 5A SEMIFINALS

(All games, 7 p.m.)

Region 3

Iowa City High (12-29) at Cedar Rapids Kennedy (36-4)

Burlington (26-12) at Cedar Rapids Prairie (24-14)

Region 5

Cedar Rapids Washington (14-24) at Iowa City West (30-10)

Dubuque Hempstead (25-14) at Davenport West (28-12)

Region 6

Ankeny Centennial (17-20) at Urbandale (30-7)

Linn-Mar (26-14) at Cedar Rapids Jefferson (30-8)

CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS

(All games, 7 p.m.)

Region 3

Western Dubuque (19-19) at West Delaware (30-10)

Mason City (9-31) at Charles City (22-10)

Region 5

Clear Creek Amana (19-21) at Oskaloosa (25-7)

Washington (12-23) at Mount Pleasant (25-9)

Region 6

Ballard (18-19) at Carlisle (33-6)

Cedar Rapids Xavier (17-24) at Pella (15-18)

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

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