CEDAR RAPIDS — Enid, Okla., is not America’s vacation spot. You’ve got to have a reason to travel there.
Kirkwood’s baseball team has one.
“We are not going down there to enjoy it,” infielder Izaya Fullard said. “We’re going down there to win the whole thing. If our pitchers pitch like I know they can, and if our hitters, top to bottom, do our thing, I think we have a really good shot.”
The Eagles qualified for the NJCAA Division II national tournament in Enid with a 10-1 win over Southeast (Neb.) in a district tourney decider Sunday afternoon. The teams split the first two games of the best-of-3 series Saturday (Kirkwood taking the opener, Southeast the nightcap), but this one was all Kirkwood.
It scored twice in the top of the first, got seven high-quality innings from starting pitcher Hunter Lee and left no doubt.
“This team is very, very talented, “Lee said. “We have worked hard since we got here in the fall.”
Kirkwood (42-15-1) doesn’t know who it will play at the national tournament, which begins Saturday, just that it’s there for the first time in 19 years.
“We met after the (second) game, and felt good where we were at,” said Kirkwood Coach Todd Rima. “I think our guys had already moved on. They felt good about what we would do today. You can always feel good when have Hunter Lee on the mound to start a big game. To see him go out there and pitch the way he did, our guys rallied around him.”
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Lee went the first seven innings, gutting through 132 pitches. Adam Ketelson finished things up.
“I think I had about a 25 or 30-pitch fourth inning, had a couple of runners get on, and I was getting fatigued a little bit,” said Lee, a sophomore from Des Moines Lincoln. “It was really good to get out there in the fifth and sixth and have a couple of quick ones. Coming in after the sixth, I was up to about 115, 116 pitches, but I said ‘I can get you three more outs.’”
Kirkwood’s offense produced 17 hits, 13 from the top four batters in the order.
Shortstop Korry Howell, an Iowa commit, went 3-for-4 with five runs scored. Taylor Jackson was 3-for-6 with three RBIs, Fullard 4-for-5 with four RBIs and Ross Kramer 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
Southeast ended its season 42-16.
“I was really confident coming in,” said Fullard, who also has committed to Iowa. “The second game yesterday, we did hit, scored nine runs, I think. Normally that wins you a ballgame. We just had a lot of walks and free bases for them. So we knew coming in, if we could just cut down on the walks, play clean defense, that we’d have a really good shot.”
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