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Kirkwood Community College baseball team seeks national title
Seeded sixth, the Eagles begin play at NJCAA Division II World Series on Saturday night against Heartland (Ill.)
CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s going to be hot in Enid, Okla., for the first couple days of the NJCAA Division II World Series. Hot and windy.
Sounds like weather amenable to good offense. Or maybe not.
“Blowing in from straight right about 20 or 30 miles per hour,” Kirkwood Community College Coach Todd Rima said. “Not what I would prefer.”
Rima can’t be fretting too much. His Eagles have been a prolific offensive team this season, one that leads D-II in home runs and is second in runs.
The only team ahead of them in that latter category is Heartland (Ill.). Ironically they meet in a first-round game Saturday night.
Heartland is the No. 3 seed in the 10-team, double-elimination event, Kirkwood is sixth.
“Any time you are one of the last 10 standing at your level, you’re excited,” Rima said. “You get to come down here, and there are 10 teams playing for a national championship. That’s what you’d like at the end of the year. We’re looking forward to getting after it tomorrow night under the lights.”
This is the second straight year in the World Series for Kirkwood. The Eagles also were a third seed in 2021, lost their first-round game, won two in the losers’ bracket, then were eliminated.
Rima believes that experience will be a boon for his team this year. Guys like outfielder Chase Moseley and shortstop Alex Pendergast have been there and done that.
“Not only that they’ve been here, but that the guys who have been here have been really good leaders,” Rima said. “They have prepared our young guys for the atmosphere, what it’s going to be like, what the week looks like. I definitely think it’s an advantage for our young players.”
Kirkwood (43-16) has hit 116 home runs this season, which, obviously, breaks out to about two a game. Moseley, an Iowa recruit, has 21 to lead the team, with Kyle Hayes next at 16.
Six Eagles had double-figure long balls. Rima said all the power comes from practicing for it, as well as practicing to lay off pitches, especially offspeed pitches that aren’t strikes.
In other words, getting good pitches to hit.
“The 116 home runs, the doubles we’ve hit, the runs that we’ve scored. I thought last year’s team was really good, but I think this team is just a little bit better, as far as scoring runs, hitting home runs,” Rima said. “This is the best offense that we’ve had.”
Heartland comes into Saturday night’s game with a 48-8 record. Pearl River (Miss.) is the top seed, followed by Madison (Wis.).
They have first-round byes. The tournament runs through Saturday, June 4.
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