116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS – The best Sydney Albaugh could muster her first fall at Kirkwood was some warning track power.
Strength and conditioning work, a little tweak to her technique and the freshman with little pop has transformed into one of the top NJCAA Division II long-ball hitters.
“Before coming here, I wasn’t much of a home-run hitter,” Albaugh said. “It was more singles and occasionally doubles. This fall, (Kirkwood) Coach (Eric) Frese and I switched up my load a little bit and it has helped me tremendously.”
Albaugh ranks fourth nationally, hitting her 18th home run in Kirkwood’s doubleheader sweep over NIACC on Tuesday at home. The Eagles won 12-1 and 16-3, each in five innings, improving to 36-9 overall and 25-5 in the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference.
“She’s really come a long way,” Frese said. “If I told you that she couldn’t hit the ball over the fence in BP (batting practice) her freshman year, you’d look at me like I was crazy, but that’s how hard she’s worked at her game and how far she’s come.
“She’s just very passionate about getting better every day. Over time, little by little, it’s just clicked for her this year.”
Albaugh provided a three-run shot in the five-run second inning of the opener. Emilee Linder, who has 11 home runs, added a two-run blast in the fourth, scoring Albaugh who had doubled. Austyn Crees has 12, contributing to the Eagles’ 89 total home runs, which is tied for first nationally with Parkland (Ill.) College.
“I think we know we’re a good-hitting team,” Albaugh said. “I think we just know this is a start of what we can do.”
The University of St. Thomas (Minn.) commit is in her third year at Kirkwood, recovering a year of eligibility with the cancellation of last season. Albaugh focused on getting in good shape so she could continue her career beyond Kirkwood. She is reaping the rewards, hitting .433 with 15 doubles and a triple.
Albaugh had two doubles, including one off the right-field wall that scored three in the nightcap. She finished with six RBIs, giving her 59 – good for fourth nationally.
“There were a lot of times I would come in before practice and hit,” Albaugh said. “All summer long I worked my butt off from my freshman to my sophomore year and got in shape.
“You have to put a lot of time in but it’s worth it. It has paid off.”
The biggest sign was her first multi-HR game in the fall against Indian Hills. She realized her potential and continued to build on each practice and game.
“It was pretty cool,” Albaugh said. “Now, when I am struggling, I know it’s in between my ears. I just have to change my mentality and then I hit fine.”
Crees led the Eagles with four hits, including three in the nightcap. She finished with four RBIs. Peggy Klingler and Angie Gorkow matched Albaugh with three hits. Randyn Carter, Linder and Olivia Richards had two hits apiece for the Eagles.
Kirkwood has a potent lineup that ranks second with 412 runs, averaging more than nine a game. The Eagles also bat .358 as a team with a .449 team on-base percentage.
“They fight every single at-bat,” Frese said. “Eventually, when they get a pitch to hit, they don’t miss it very often.
“These kids can flat-out play. Obviously, you’re doing what you can to develop and help them out. As they get older, just learning the strike zone a little bit and what they want to hit and don’t want to hit makes a huge difference.”