No. 1 Kennedy avoids a second straight early exit by shutting out Iowa City High
Gratz: 'I don't think anybody can beat us'
CEDAR RAPIDS — Kennedy had been there before. A No. 1 seed and a regional semifinal were nothing new.
However, the opponent, and the outcome, were different.
A year after being bounced from the playoffs by Davenport West, the top-ranked Cougars beat Iowa City High 5-0 to advance to the Class 5A Region 3 final.
Jenna Schwartzhoff made sure last year’s upset would not happen again Saturday. The junior threw a complete game, one-hit shutout and struck out nine, including the last out of the game.
“I felt on fire. I was comfortable, all my pitches were working,” Schwartzhoff said. “I believe in myself, that’s what worked.”
Schwartzhoff hit the Little Hawks with a series of change-ups, which often had batters chasing pitches in the dirt.
Her field backed her up as well, catching a runner off the bag in the first and making every ground ball out look routine. The No. 1 team in the state looked every bit their ranking last as they notched their 37th win of the year.
This one, however, is the most important so far, as the Cougars are one win away from the state tournament in Fort Dodge.
“Last year, we got knocked out in this round,” Kennedy Coach Dan Gratz said. “It’s just about winning and moving on, 5-0 is a good solid win. Pitching and defense kept us in it, so that’s what we’ve got to do.”
The Cougars did struggle with the off-speed pitching of City High’s Gabrielle Hiatt. Though Hiatt only had two strikeouts, the Cougars struggled to make solid contact, more often than not flying out.
Paige Timmerman had two RBIs on a pair of sacrifices, while Megan Weber Knocked in a run. Schwartzhoff helped herself with an RBI single in the second inning. Gratz had an easy explanation for his teams hitting woes.
“These kids, they want to drive the ball,” Gratz said. “It was anxious hitters, you know, It’s the playoffs. We’ll chalk it up to anxious hitters.”
While there are fixes to be made before the Cougars take on Prairie in the regional final, the win inspired confidence up and down the Kennedy lineup and among the coaching staff.
“Honestly, I don’t think anybody can beat us,” Gratz said. “When they just do their thing they’re good to go.”
“I think that we’re on a roll right now, but we didn’t play to our full potential,” Timmerman said. “At this point in the season it’s all about surviving and advancing. We’re going to keep playing how we’re playing and that’ll get us as far as we need to.”