FORT DODGE — Season after season, year after year, their routine has been the same.
Kaylin Kinney pitched. Abby Spore caught. Together, they dreamed.
“We’ve talked about it a lot,” Spore said. “We’ve always said, ‘Someday. Someday.’”
And now ...
“Someday is tomorrow,” Spore said.
Spore and Mya Dodge proved the perils of pitching around Kinney, hitting back-to-back third-inning home runs to give second-ranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy some separation. Then, Kinney dented the upper reaches of an evergreen tree well beyond the left-field fence with a sixth-inning missile, and the Cougars routed No. 8 Muscatine, 9-0, in a Class 5A semifinal at the state softball tournament at the Rogers Sports Complex.
“It feels amazing,” said Kinney, who also pitched a four-hit shutout as the Cougars (25-1) won their 18th consecutive game. “This is like a dream. It’s unreal.”
Kennedy advances to the state finals for the first time in state history. There, the Cougars will face No. 1 Fort Dodge (28-3) — a 5-3 victor over No. 6 Ankeny Centennial — at 5 p.m. Thursday.
The Cougars will be the first Metro finalist since Linn-Mar was the 2006 4A runner-up. With another win, they would be the first Metro champion since Jefferson won two in a row in 1997 and 1998.
“I’m so excited,” Spore said. “I literally can’t wait.”
Kennedy has homered six times in two games here this week. Kinney and Dodge have gone deep twice apiece.
Muscatine (19-3) elected to walk Kinney intentionally the first two times she came to the plate, including a leadoff pass in the bottom of the third and the Cougars in front, 1-0.
Bypassing Kinney has its benefits, and Wednesday, it had its consequences.
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Dodge laced a 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence and Spore followed with another blast to make it 4-0.
“When they walk Kaylin, we just want to make it hurt,” Spore said. “Our 2-3-4 hitters work together as a team instead of as a competition.”
With two runners on base and no outs in the sixth, there wasn’t much choice but to pitch to Kinney. On the second pitch, the University of Nebraska signee smoked a three-run blast beyond the fence, beyond a second fence and three-fourths the way up the evergreen. Consensus in the press box had the shot, conservatively, at 275 feet.
“They threw a new pitcher at me, and I just wanted to stay in the moment, stay in the at-bat,” Kinney said.
The meat of the order provided the fireworks. But it was No. 8 hitter Sam Scheck that put the Cougars in front with a two-out RBI single in the second.
“I just wanted to hit it to the grass and move the runner around,” said Scheck, who also started the sixth-inning rally with a leadoff single. “We like to pass the bat from one hitter to the next.”
CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY 9, MUSCATINE 0
Class 5A State Semifinal, at Fort Dodge
Muscatine 000 000 0 — 0 4 3
C.R. Kennedy 013 005 x — 9 8 1
Maura Chalupa, Bree Seaman (6) and Kylei Salyars. Kaylin Kinney and Abby Spore. W — Kinney (11-0). L — Chalupa (8-2). HR — CRK: Mya Dodge (9), Spore (6), Kinney (11).
Metro state softball finalists
2020: Kennedy (5A ?????)
2006: Linn-Mar (4A runner-up)
2005: Jefferson (4A runner-up)
2004: Jefferson (4A runner-up)
1998: Jefferson (3A champion)
1997: Jefferson (3A champion)
1983: Jefferson (one-class champion)
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