Prep Baseball

Cedar Rapids Kennedy baseball shows potential in salvaging split with Linn-Mar

4A No. 8 Cougars get 13-4 win after falling 6-5 in opener

Kennedy's Braden Hoyer (28) runs into the dugout after spring a run during their game at Washington High School in Cedar
Kennedy’s Braden Hoyer (28) runs into the dugout after spring a run during their game at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

MARION — Cedar Rapids Kennedy baseball coach Bret Hoyer has a clear vision of the big picture.

The Cougars are 9-3 after playing nine of their first 12 games on the road. They have climbed into the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association rankings and still haven’t reached their peak.

“It’s a good thing,” Hoyer said. “What is really encouraging is we haven’t come close to playing as well as we are capable of playing. If I can get them to understand how to hustle all the time then I think it will be a step in the right direction for us to reach our potential.”

Class 4A No. 8 Kennedy put things together a little more in the nightcap of a doubleheader split with Linn-Mar Monday night at Oak Ridge Middle School. The Lions received a strong start from Colin Streff and three hits and two RBIs from Coy Sarsfield for a 6-5 victory in the opener. The Cougars rebounded with 12 runs in the middle innings for a 13-4 triumph in the nightcap.

Kennedy trailed by three and took its first lead in the five-run fourth. Wiley Sullivan’s sacrifice fly plated Brenden Groth and Mason Behn ripped a double to chase home Kaden Waack and Gavin Smith for the Cougars’ first lead of either game.

The game was decided in the fifth. Kennedy sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs with two outs to pull away. Braden Hoyer and Sullivan had back-to-back two-run singles. Zac Stallman added a two-run double.

“I’m very proud of how they bounced back,” Hoyer said. “Tough loss in Game 1 and got behind right away, but kept grinding.

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“They kept playing hard, trying and we know we can play a lot harder than what we played. We stayed with it and broke through, finally.”

Kennedy’s Eli Park threw a complete game for the victory in the nightcap, allowing four runs on eight hits. Behn and Max White led the way with four hits apiece. White had a single, double and triple in Game 1, driving in four runs.

White had a single, double and triple in Game 1, driving in four runs. He tied the game briefly, 5-5, with a two-out, bases-loaded triple.

“He’s been swinging it pretty well most of the season,” Hoyer said of White. “It’s good to see him continuing that.”

The Lions (4-6) used Streff’s eight-strikeout performance and 10 hits to down the Cougars. He kept Kennedy’s bats in check outside of the four-run fifth. Linn-Mar Coach Kyle Rodenkirk visited the mound and told him the game was his to win. He buckled down and went the distance.

“We knew they were one of the top hitting teams in the league,” Rodenkirk said. “We just had a game plan of keeping them off balance.

“He hit his spots with his pitches. I was really impressed with his mental toughness to finish the game.”

The Lions built a 5-1 lead. They scored three in the third, receiving RBI singles from Sarsfield and Andy Althoff. Sarsfield and Jonah Albrecht provided run-scoring singles in the fourth.

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Linn-Mar capitalized on a Kennedy error to push the winning run across in the bottom of the sixth. Sarsfield finished with five hits. The junior and three-year starter serves as a catalyst to the Lions’ offense.

“It’s a spot in the lineup that we know he has pretty good odds of getting on base,” Rodenkirk said of Sarsfield as a leadoff hitter. “When he gets on base, good things happen. He has done a really good job.

“He’s kind of switched his swing a little bit this year. It’s paying off big time. All the work he’s put in during the offseason has helped him.”

Brendyn Mussig and Zach Wray each had two hits in the opener. Kane Deutmeyer and Dylan Page had two hits in the nightcap for Linn-Mar.

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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