116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Alecea Mendoza hasn’t seen too many pitches she didn’t like.
She has thrived with an aggressive style at the plate. The Kirkwood sophomore has tried to incorporate a little more patience to her free-swinging batting approach. Mendoza found a good balance Sunday afternoon.
“Honestly, I like to swing at anything that can be a strike,” Mendoza said. “My biggest thing was trying to find my own pitch, even if it was close. I just wanted to find a pitch I knew I could drive.
“It was a really good day to hit. The wind was blowing out, so that helped a lot, too.”
Mendoza went 5-for-7 with two home runs, two doubles, six RBIs and four runs in the Eagles’ softball doubleheader sweep at home over Southeastern Community College. Kirkwood won the opener, 10-5, and the nightcap, 9-0, in five innings on Sophomore Day in front of many family and friends.
“I thought it was a real special day to come out here and win two and have two solid games,” Mendoza said. “I thought it was really great.”
Strides have been made from last season. Mendoza has developed into more of a complete player and improved as a hitter. She credited teammates in helping her strive to reach her potential. Now, she’s batting .372, a .446 on-base percentage with 58 hits and a team-high 56 RBIs.
“Just putting in the work every day,” Mendoza said. “We have four outfielders and we push each other to be better. I feel that helped me try to be the best player I can be. Made me a better player for myself and my team.”
Kirkwood Coach Eric Frese has witnessed her growth. She’s added some power since she arrived on campus. The biggest stride has become her reliability in the middle of the Eagles lineup.
“She has been our most consistent player from Day 1 to now,” Frese said. “She really doesn’t go into bad funks. She has an understanding of what she wants to do and it’s paid off for her.”
Mendoza, from Riverdale High School in East Moline, Ill., was the only player with multiple hits in each game. She opened with a single and a two-run double in the first two innings of Game 1. Mendoza added an RBI double off the right center field wall, giving Kirkwood a 9-4 lead in the fourth.
Confidence was high after the near miss and has been a key this season.
“I like to go up there with a clear mind and not overthink things,” Mendoza said. “I kind of struggled with that last year. I told myself this year that it is going to be different. I’m going to go up there with an open mind and try to get a hit.”
In Game 2, Mendoza belted her 12th and 13th home runs of the season. The first was a towering shot over the right field fence. The final blast was a two-run lined shot over the left-center wall. The left-hander demonstrated her ability to spray the ball around the field.
“For the most part, I do hit all over the field,” Mendoza said. “I do like to hit more toward left field, though. I’m better with the outside pitch, but if the inside pitch is there and I want to hit it, I go for it.”
Frese noted she has a talent going to the opposite field. If pitchers challenge her inside, she can still make them pay.
“After 20-some years I’ve done this, I’ll tell you players that can hit the ball the other way and hit balls consistent, when they do get one pull side they will hit it a long way,” Frese said. “She hits the ball the other way, but if she gets a pitch inside you’ll see it hammered.”
Peggy Klingler had two hits, including a two-run home run, and three RBIs in the opener for Kirkwood. Former Center Point-Urbana prep Reagan Schutte had two home runs and drove in three runs in the nightcap. Emilee Linder had two hits in the second game and a solo home run in the opener for the Eagles (37-15).
Payton Akers tossed a five-inning shutout, coming on the heels of a 16-strikeout performance at Southeastern Saturday.
The Eagles have won five straight games and host Marshalltown for a doubleheader Monday at 2 p.m.
“It’s been a challenging year with the weather,” Frese said. “We feel pretty good with where we’re at right now. Hopefully, we have a few more weeks to keep getting better, because this has been one of those fun weather years.”