With 15 straight wins and seven consecutive shutouts, you might think the Cedar Rapids Kennedy softball team carries the aura of invincibility these days.
Coach Maddison LeClere knows better.
“We know in the postseason, anything can happen,” LeClere said. “Our track record is proof of that.”
Second-ranked Kennedy (22-1) hosts Iowa City Liberty (17-8) in a Class 5A regional final at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The winner advances to the state tournament.
As dominant as the Cougars have been, this is no slam dunk.
First of all, Liberty is scorching, too. The Lightning have won 13 of their last 15 games, including an eye-popping display in a 12-0 four-inning rout of Cedar Rapids Prairie in the regional semifinals.
“We know Kennedy is good,” Liberty outfielder Brylee Klosterman said. “But we also know our own potential. We’re not going to go up there thinking, ‘Oh, God, we’re going to get our butts kicked.’”
Secondly, the Cougars have been vulnerable in the postseason throughout their current five-year run of excellence. They were upset by Cedar Rapids Prairie in the 2016 regional finals and knocked off by Linn-Mar in the 2018 regional semis.
Last year, they made it to state and went 0-2.
But this is probably Kennedy’s best team — its most complete team — yet.
University of Nebraska recruit Kaylin Kinney has been all-around spectacular. In 40 innings, the pitcher has not allowed a run. Not earned. Not unearned. None.
At the plate, she is hitting .636 with nine home runs, 30 runs, 26 RBIs and 18 walks.
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There are plenty of other good sticks around her, too. The addition of Mya Dodge (19 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs) has given the lineup more depth, and eight different Cougars have at least one home run.
“It’s cool to see how the girls have grown and progressed,” LeClere said. “We know (Liberty’s Kara Maiers) is a good pitcher. We’ve talked things we need to do in the box, and things we shouldn’t do. Hopefully things go well.”
Maiers, a junior, owns a 10-2 record and 0.86 ERA, including a nine-strikeout, one-hit gem against Prairie.
“You’re going to see two really good pitchers,” Liberty Coach Jeff Kelley said. “It’s going to come down to who plays the best defense, and who gets the timely hit.”
In the other area 5A game Tuesday, No. 5 Iowa City High (18-4) goes after its third straight state berth when it hosts No. 8 Muscatine (17-2).
In 4A, No. 2 West Delaware (20-4) welcomes Washington (10-17) and No. 15 Western Dubuque (11-7) travels to No. 5 North Scott (15-9).
Class 5A regional finals
Region 1: Sioux City North (9-10) at No. 1 Fort Dodge (25-3), 7 p.m.
Region 2: No. 13 Bettendorf (18-6) at No. 6 Johnston (15-7), 7 p.m.
Region 3: No. 12 Indianola (14-5) at No. 3 West Des Moines Valley (22-4), 7 p.m.
Region 4: Southeast Polk (11-12) at No. 4 Waukee (22-4), 7 p.m.
Region 5: Urbandale (10-17) at No. 6 Ankeny Centennial (20-8), 7 p.m.
Region 6: Davenport West (7-14) at No. 9 Pleasant Valley (16-6), 7 p.m.
Region 7: Iowa City Liberty (17-8) at No. 2 Cedar Rapids Kennedy (22-1)
Time & place: 7 p.m., at Kennedy High School
Overview: Kennedy carries a 15-game winning streak and has been untouchable lately. The Cougars’ pitching tandem of Kaylin Kinney, Jayme Scheck and Mary Krystofiak has allowed one run in the last 11 games. Kinney has not given up a run — earned or otherwise — in 40 innings this season. Despite all of this, the Cougars — after their third state trip in four years — can’t afford to look past Liberty, which put a 12-0 four-inning thumping on No. 15 Cedar Rapids Prairie in the regional semifinals thanks to a 10-run third inning. The Lightning have won 13 of their last 15 games and seek their first state-tournament appearance in their brief school history. Coach Jeff Kelley has his own lockdown pitcher in Kara Maiers (10-2, 0.86 ERA). She’ll be tested by a Kennedy attack that has popped 35 home runs this season, nine by Kinney (.636, 1.606 slugging percentage). Mya Dodge (.382) has added seven homers and leads the team with 31 RBIs. Leadoff hitter Brylee Klosterman hits .450 for the Lightning with 16 extra-base hits and 26 runs.
Region 8: No. 8 Muscatine (17-2) at No. 5 Iowa City High (18-4)
Time & place: 7 p.m., at City High
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Overview: City High’s bomb squad is on the doorstep of a third consecutive state appearance; its third-place finish last year was best in school history. The Little Hawks have hit homers in droves; their 46 long balls equate to more than two per game. Juniors Ayana Lindsey (.500) and Carey Koenig (.468) are the top power sources, with 11 and 10 home runs, respectively. Lindsey has scored 38 runs, and Koenig has delivered 35 RBIs. Brooke Bormann and Ella Cook have added seven round-trippers apiece. Muscatine is the champion of the Mississippi Athletic Conference, splitting league twinbills with Pleasant Valley and Davenport Assumption. Junior Rylie Moss is one of the state’s toughest outs; she is hitting .662 with 35 runs and 17 stolen bases. Traditionally one of the state’s top programs, Muscatine’s last state bid came in 2014.
Class 4A regional finals
Region 1: Le Mars (13-5) at No. 9 Sergeant Bluff-Luton (17-4), 7 p.m.
Region 2: No. 13 Ballard (10-7) at No. 8 Dallas Center-Grimes (18-9), 7 p.m.
Region 3: No. 10 Winterset (13-7) at No. 6 Norwalk (17-6), 7 p.m.
Region 4: No. 14 Harlan (15-4) at No. 1 Carlisle (17-3), 7 p.m.
Region 5: Mason City (10-14) at No. 7 Charles City (12-3), 7 p.m.
Region 6: Washington (10-17) at No. 2 West Delaware (20-4)
Time & place: 7 p.m., at Sill Field, Manchester
Overview: A winner of 14 consecutive games, West Delaware is a significant favorite to advance to state for the second straight year. The Hawks cruised past Cedar Rapids Xavier, 12-2, in their regional semifinal while Washington upset Clear Creek Amana, 3-1. Macey Kleitsch has been the featured pitcher for the Hawks since she arrived in the program, and carries a 13-3 record and 1.05 ERA this season. She has fanned 106 batters, compared to only six walks. She also leads the team in batting average at .522 and is one of five regulars hitting .400 or better. Heather Heims leads the team in RBIs, with 34. Washington entered the postseason on a 2-8 slide, but defeated Grinnell in the first round before pulling the upset of CCA. Kellie Dallmeyer is hitting .387 with 26 runs and 24 RBIs.
Region 7: No. 12 Burlington (17-6) at No. 3 Fairfield (23-1), 7 p.m.
Region 8: No. 15 Western Dubuque (11-7) at No. 5 North Scott (15-9)
Time & place: 7 p.m., at North Scott High School, Eldridge
Overview: Facing a 2-1 deficit after six innings, Western Dubuque rallied with a tally in the seventh and another in the eighth to get past DeWitt Central in the regional semifinals Saturday. The Bobcats are a win away from their first state appearance since 2008. They’ll face a North Scott outfit that was the 4A state runner-up last year. Junior pitcher Sydney Kennedy gives the Bobcats a good chance; she is 7-3 with a 0.98 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 71 innings, and also hits .483. Freshman Maddy McDermott is the top bat for the Lancers; she is hitting .500 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs.
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