116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
NORTH LIBERTY — It had been almost a month since Liberty ace pitcher Kara Maiers had been in the circle for the Lightning.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson had a simple plan against the senior right-hander.
“We had a strong feeling that Maiers was going to pitch tonight,” J-Hawks Coach Mike Kuba said. “Our game plan was to work good at-bats against her and make her pitch because it had been a while since she had been out there.”
The J-Hawks executed the plan to perfection. They coaxed four walks after a leadoff single from Kelsey Palmer, scoring twice, forcing Maiers from the game after facing just seven batters. Jefferson scored twice in the first and added runs in the next four innings en route to a 9-2 win Saturday night at Liberty in a Class 5A regional semifinal.
Jefferson (26-14) advances to a regional final on Tuesday night at Cedar Rapids Kennedy. The Cougars advanced with a 9-0 win over Cedar Falls. Liberty, ranked No. 11 in Class 5A, finishes its season at 24-16.
Maiers had been sidelined with an ankle injury and was just a bit off with her pitches, playing right into the hands of the Jefferson hitters.
“We just wanted to create a not-good rhythm for her,” Kuba said. “We wanted to attack and score runs as early as we could.”
After a pitching change, the Lightning got back in the flow, scoring one in the bottom of the first on an RBI single from Kennedy Daugherty, cutting the lead in half.
Jefferson responded with a run in the second on an RBI single from Palmer, then broke the game open, scoring four times on six hits in the third. Palmer had another RBI single in the inning while Taylor Robinson drove home the final two runs of the inning with a single to right center.
“We’ve told our girls coming into the postseason that we have to win or tie in every inning if we want to win,” Kuba said. “That has been our focus and I thought the girls did a really good job of that tonight.”
While the offense was rapping out 11 hits, the defense behind starter Shandi Rulli was solid. Rulli struck out three, but only allowed five well-spaced hits.
“The defensive gods were certainly with us tonight,” Kuba said with a smile. “There’s been games this year where they haven’t been, but the girls did a nice job rising to the occasion.”
Kuba said the J-Hawks will enjoy the win until Sunday when the focus will shift to Kennedy.
“As soon as they wake up (Sunday morning), they are thinking of nothing but green and gold,” he said. “In my opinion, it is going to be two good teams playing in a regional final and we will see where the chips fall.”