FORT DODGE — More than anything, Kaylin Kinney was thankful for a season that nearly never happened.
“That’s how I want to be remembered,” she said. “Thankful. Grateful. Somebody that loved the game.”
One of the best softball players in state history, Kinney completed her resume — and her legacy — Thursday night.
A senior and a University of Nebraska signee, she earned all-tournament captain honors after leading Cedar Rapids Kennedy past Fort Dodge, 5-1 in the Class 5A state final at the Rogers Sports Complex.
She held a potent Fort Dodge lineup to one run on three hits, striking out nine and walking one.
Kinney owns a sunny personality. After all, she wore a sunflower adornment in her hair through much of her career before ditching it this week because she thought it would clash with the pink dye in her hair.
But with her pleasantness comes intensity.
“She pushed people when they needed to be pushed,” Coach Madison LeClere said. “But she was there to pick them up when they needed it, too.”
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Close the book on Kinney’s Kennedy career with a 67-7 pitching mark (527 strikeouts and 40 walks and a 0.77 ERA).
At the plate, she ranks third in state history with 55 home runs. She did that despite being walked — usually intentionally — 156 times. She was a career .501 hitter, with a 1.054 slugging percentage.
In Kinney’s five years, the Cougars piled up a 171-24 record. And now, a championship.
It was a season, and a championship, that nearly never took root. It wasn’t decided until May that there would be a season despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m just happy we got a chance,” she said.
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