This much has been proven: the Cedar Rapids Prairie softball team can compete with anybody.
The latest piece of evidence came Monday, when the Hawks snapped Class 5A top-ranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s 19-game Mississippi Valley Conference winning streak in a doubleheader split at Prairie.
“Our team is a good team,” first-year coach Erin Johnson said. “The thing I like most is their mental outlook. If they’re down a run or down eight runs, they just keep fighting.”
Johnson inherited a strong program from Joe Yegge, who resigned after last season.
“He did a really nice job installing a winning attitude, a can-do spirit. It left me in a really good place,” Johnson said. “I want to keep building on that.”
As Erin Doud, Johnson enjoyed an extremely successful playing career. She was an all-state outfielder for Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s state-championship team in 1997, then went on to play at the University of Iowa, for which she played at the College World Series.
She has coached club softball for the past six years before taking the reins at Prairie.
The Hawks have responded to her.
“They’ve adjusted well,” Johnson said. “New coach, new expectations, culture ... they’ve done well.”
Prairie (22-11 overall, 17-3 MVC) has swept seven league doubleheaders, splitting with Dubuque Senior, Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Kennedy.
Sophomore Nicole Sullivan (.368) leads the Hawks with 33 RBIs, and also highlights a pitching staff that also includes freshman Riley Sauser and sophomore Gabby Robinson.
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Title time at North Linn
Marv Porter expected his first team at North Linn to be competitive in the Tri-Rivers Conference.
Instead, the Lynx have been dominant.
North Linn (34-4, 20-0) has clinched at least a share of its first Tri-Rivers title since 1983, and can win it outright if it takes care of business Thursday at home against Easton Valley.
“The girls have done this, not me,” said Porter, 76, who has served as an assistant at several stops and was the head coach at Alburnett for three years. “The girls have done everything they’ve been asked. They always seem to come through at the end.”
The Lynx have won 13 straight games, 22 of the last 23.
They have speed at the top of the order; Hannah Bridgewater and Kaitlyn Sommerfelt are 1-2 in the state in runs scored, with 66 and 53, respectively. They have power behind them (the Flanagan twins have a combined 99 RBIs), and they have a strikeout pitcher in Abby Flanagan (20-2, 0.33 ERA).
“We’re blessed with a lot of speed, and it all starts with pitching,” Porter said. “If you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything.”
Metro showdown is Thursday
MVC division leaders collide Thursday, when Class 5A fifth-ranked Cedar Rapids Jefferson (27-5, 16-4) hosts No. 1 Kennedy (23-5, 17-1) at Larry Niemeyer Field.
First pitch is 5:30 p.m.
Jefferson is on the verge of wrapping up the Mississippi Division; Kennedy holds a two-game lead in the loss column over Prairie and Dubuque Hempstead in the Valley Division.
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