Prep Softball

An uncommon regular season behind, No. 15 Prairie faces surging Liberty in a 5A regional softball opener

No. 2 Kennedy, No. 5 City High lead the list of area big-school hopefuls

Iowa City Liberty's Kara Maiers (12) high-fives catcher Mischa Reiners (1) after pitching a no-hitter against Linn-Mar o
Iowa City Liberty’s Kara Maiers (12) high-fives catcher Mischa Reiners (1) after pitching a no-hitter against Linn-Mar on July 1. The Lightning host No. 15 Cedar Rapids Prairie in a Class 5A regional semifinal Saturday. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Alisha Frese’s first season with the Cedar Rapids Prairie softball team has been far from common.

“It’s been crazy,” said Frese, the Hawks’ head coach. “Coming in, not really knowing anyone ... some injuries ... we’ve been shut down twice due to COVID.

“It was a short season anyway, and technically, we’re not even halfway through a normal season.”

Prairie faced shutdowns of six and three days while awaiting tests for players. Both were negative, and the Class 5A 15th-ranked Hawks (12-7) have resumed their season and played on. They’ll face Iowa City Liberty (16-8) in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Saturday at North Liberty.

Frese’s crew is facing a Liberty squad that has won 12 of its last 14 games.

“I feel really good about our team,” Liberty Coach Jeff Kelley said. “We’re playing really well right now.”

Confidence is easy when you have a pitcher on a roll, and Kelley has that in junior Kara Maiers (9-2, 0.90 ERA), who has produced three no-hitters — including a perfect game — in the past three weeks.

“She’s just pounding the strike zone and getting ahead in the count,” Kelley said. “We’re going to go at them with a lot of hard stuff.”

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Area 5A powers Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Iowa City High also begin their postseason Saturday. Second-ranked Kennedy (21-1) hosts Dubuque Senior (4-14), and No. 5 City (17-4) welcomes Iowa City West (8-14).

Kennedy is on a 14-game winning streak, outscoring its opponents by a 132-6 ledger in that span. University of Nebraska signee Kaylin Kinney is hitting .586 (1.483 slugging percentage) with seven home runs. In the pitching circle, she has not allowed a run — earned or not — in 33 innings this season.

Among other Metro teams, Linn-Mar (11-11) is at No. 8 Muscatine (16-2), and Cedar Rapids Jefferson (11-13) travels to No. 13 Bettendorf (17-6).

After outlasting Marion in an eight-inning regional quarterfinal, Cedar Rapids Xavier (16-9) heads to Manchester on Saturday to tangle with No. 2 West Delaware (19-4) in a 4A contest.

“They’re very good,” Xavier Coach Nikki Gahring said of the Hawks, who have won 13 consecutive games. “They have great pitching (in Macey Kleitsch) and great history.

“We’ll have to play as well as we played tonight. But anybody’s day is anybody’s day.”

Xavier advanced behind Duanna Coyle’s two-run homer in the eighth.

Saturday’s Class 5A regional semifinals

(All games, 7 p.m.)

Region 2

Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln (7-13) at Johnston (14-7)

Cedar Rapids Jefferson (11-13) at Bettendorf (17-6)

Region 7

Dubuque Senior (4-14) at Cedar Rapids Kennedy (21-1)

Cedar Rapids Prairie (12-7) at Iowa City Liberty (16-8)

Region 8

Iowa City West (8-14) at Iowa City High (17-4)

Linn-Mar (11-11) at Muscatine (16-2)

Saturday’s Class 4A regional semifinals

(All games, 7 p.m.)

Region 5

Center Point-Urbana (6-18) at Charles City (11-3)

Mason City (9-14) at Decorah (8-6)

Region 6

Cedar Rapids Xavier (16-9) at West Delaware (19-4)

Washington (9-17) at Clear Creek Amana (14-9)

Region 8

Dubuque Wahlert (11-12) at North Scott (14-9)

DeWitt Central (13-13) at Western Dubuque (10-7)

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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