CEDAR RAPIDS - The Cedar Rapids Kennedy girls' swimming team has never shied away from tough competition.
The Cougars received a healthy dose of it at their invitational.
Kennedy won two events, was runner-up in three more and ... »
CEDAR RAPIDS — They’re the top two teams in Class 5A in terms of batting average.
But Thursday’s Mississippi Valley Conference softball twinbill was anything but a slugfest.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s Erica Oler pitched a two-hitter in the opener, then Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Ashley Winterowd answered with a four-hitter as the Metro rivals traded 5-0 verdicts at Larry Niemeyer Field.
For the second-ranked Cougars (24-2 overall, 18-2 MVC), it’s validation that they’re finally on even terms — at least — with No. 9 Jefferson (21-6, 16-4), a program that has dominated them for decades.
Kennedy has beaten Jefferson four times since the turn of the century, and the most recent win had been 2009.
“It’s a big step,” Kennedy Coach Dan Gratz said. “Honestly, we tried to look at it as another game ... it’s Games 25 and 26 for us.”
Kennedy slipped a game behind Iowa City West in the MVC Valley Division race. Jefferson is three games back, and travels to West on Tuesday.
Both games became one-sided late.
Jefferson broke open the first contest with four runs in the bottom of the fifth, collecting seven hits, including a two-run homer by Kennedy Dighton.
Kennedy entered Thursday with a 5A-best .458 team batting average, but Oler surrendered just two hits. Oler, who was at Cedar Rapids Washington through her sophomore season, struck out seven and walked two and retired the final seven batters she faced. Nobody advanced beyond second base.
“I was able to keep it low and inside,” Oler said. “I didn’t want them to get the sweet part of the bats on it.”
Jefferson broke a scoreless tie in the fourth on Lindsey Culver’s two-out RBI single, then busted it open in the fifth. Liv Erickson and Erin Kuba smacked RBI hits, then Dighton cleared the left-field fence.
“I’m proud of the kids. I’m proud of Erica Oler,” J-Hawks Coach Brian Erbe said. “She pitched an outstanding game. She came inside a lot and kept them off-balance. We tried to take away their power.
Then, in Game 2, it was Winterowd’s turn. The sophomore slowed a lineup that was batting .438 before Thursday. She did it with only one strikeout.
“It was a huge team effort,” she said. “The defense had my back. I just spun the ball and trusted my defense. I’m not a strikeout pitcher. I’m a pop-’em-up, ground-’em-out pitcher.”
The Cougars got a run in the third on Ashley Hamilton’s double and another in the fifth on Camryn Jeffords’ two-base hit. Jefferson loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth, but Winterowd got out of it, then Kennedy scored three in the seventh — two on Jenna Schwartzhoff’s single — to gain some comfort.
CEDAR RAPIDS JEFFERSON 5-0, CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY 0-5
At C.R. Jefferson
C.R. Kennedy 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
C.R. Jefferson 000 140 x — 5 11 0
Jenna Schwartzhoff and Peyton Baskerville, Megan Weber (5). Erica Oler and Hannah Markham. W — Oler (11-1). L — Schwartzhoff (9-2). HR — CRJ: Kennedy Dighton (3).
C.R. Kennedy 001 010 3 — 5 13 2
C.R. Jefferson 000 000 0 — 0 4 0
Ashley Winterowd and Megan Weber. Emily Oler and Hannah Markham. W — Winterowd (8-0). L — Oler (5-3).
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