Prep Softball

Prep softball preseason area Super Ten

Led by pitching duo of Kaylin Kinney and Jayme Scheck, Kennedy opens at No. 1

Cedar Rapids Kennedy pitcher Kaylin Kinney delivers to the plate last season. Kennedy opens the season at No. 1 in The Gazette’s area softball Super Ten. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Kennedy pitcher Kaylin Kinney delivers to the plate last season. Kennedy opens the season at No. 1 in The Gazette’s area softball Super Ten. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Practice opens Monday for the softball season, with competition beginning in two weeks. Here is a preseason area Super Ten:

1. CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY

* 2018 record: 33-6. MVC: 25-1 (1st-Valley Division)

* 2018 postseason: Class 5A regional semifinalist

* Overview: The Cougars were prematurely knocked out of postseason play last year by Linn-Mar, but their pitching rotation of Kaylin Kinney (junior) and Jayme Scheck (sophomore) remains unrivaled in the Mississippi Valley Conference. When opponents bother to pitch to Nebraska commit Kinney (which is uncommon), she is liable to knock the ball out of the park. Kennedy is a big-school state-title contender once again.

2. IOWA CITY HIGH

* 2018 record: 25-19. MVC: 16-10 (4th-Valley Division)

* 2018 postseason: Class 5A state tournament, T-5th place

* Overview: The Little Hawks took a big step forward in 2018, and another long stride should be coming this summer with a still-young roster that did not feature a senior last season. If the pitching — led by Ayana Lindsey and Ella Cook — takes another step forward from its 3.27 combined ERA last year, City could make its second straight trip to Fort Dodge, and make considerable noise.

3. INDEPENDENCE

* 2018 record: 35-7. Wamac West: 12-2 (1st)

* 2018 postseason: Class 4A state tournament, T-5th place

* Overview: Drake signee Mackenzie Hupke (24-4, 1.06 ERA) gives the Mustangs a dominant pitcher, as well as a cornerstone in the lineup. She is one of six returning starters. Indee doesn’t have a lot of pop at the plate (just seven home runs in 2018), so run manufacturing and timely hitting will be important. The Mustangs will be the class of the Wamac West.

4. CEDAR RAPIDS JEFFERSON

* 2018 record: 36-9. MVC: 20-6 (1st-Mississippi Division)

* 2018 postseason: Class 5A state tournament, 3rd place

* Overview: No doubt, Jefferson will score under interim coach Mike Kuba. The J-Hawks averaged 6.8 runs per game last season, led by slugger Lindsey Culver (.570, 9 home runs, 54 runs, 44 RBIs), whose dramatic two-run home run lifted the J-Hawks past Fort Dodge in the state quarterfinals. With the graduation of Erica Oler, Jefferson’s success will be determined by its pitching.

5. NORTH LINN

* 2018 record: 38-5. Tri-Rivers: 22-0 (1st)

* 2018 postseason: Class 2A regional finalist

* Overview: After a heartbreaking regional-final loss to Iowa City Regina, Coach Marv Porter vowed to enhance North Linn’s non-conference schedule this summer. This team is full of talent, led by Abby Flanagan (24-3, 0.40 ERA, 283 strikeouts) in the circle and speedsters Hannah Bridgewater and Kaitlyn Sommerfelt (a combined 139 runs) at the top of the lineup.

6. SOLON

* 2018 record: 27-8. Wamac East: 11-3 (T-1st)

* 2018 postseason: Class 3A regional finalist

* Overview: Solon came up short in the regional final at home in 2017 and 2018, and it has been 17 years since the Spartans went three straight summers without a state appearance. Taylor Ryan (.579, 52 runs, 37 stolen bases) provides the speed at the top of the order, and Skylar Stookey (nine home runs, 44 RBIs) brings the power. Kayla West (19-3, 2.16 ERA) is the featured pitcher.

7. CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE

* 2018 record: 28-13. MVC: 22-4 (2nd-Valley Division)

* 2018 postseason: Class 5A regional semifinalist

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* Overview: Prairie has become a consistent winner the past six years, and this summer will be more of the same under second-year coach Erin Johnson. Table-setter Morgan Lewis has graduated, but the Hawks return a good share of their run production.

8. LISBON

* 2018 record: 35-9. Tri-Rivers: 20-2 (2nd)

* 2018 postseason: Class 1A state tournament, 3rd place

* Overview: Bob Bunting marks his 50th season at Lisbon; he owns a career record of 1,162-625 with three state championships. He has a team that could make a serious run at a fourth. Senior pitcher Skylar Sadler returns after posting a 25-6 record with a 1.02 ERA and 229 strikeouts, and the offense is led by Reegan Happel (.351, 49 runs). The Lions are the chief challengers to North Linn in the Tri-Rivers.

9. IOWA CITY REGINA

* 2018 record: 25-16. River Valley: 14-4 (2nd-South Division)

* 2018 postseason: Class 2A state runner-up

* Overview: They don’t rack up gaudy win-loss records, but the Regals always are at their best in July. Regina has advanced to the 2A state finals five times since 2011, including four straight years, winning titles in 2011, 2015 and 2017. It figures to be more of the same this summer; the Regals will contend with strong non-conference schedule, and the RVC South will be a challenge. Eight starters are back, led by pitcher Katie Bracken.

10. WEST DELAWARE

* 2018 record: 24-16. Wamac East: 9-5 (3rd)

* 2018 postseason: Class 3A regional quarterfinalist

* Overview: The Hawks return nearly intact, with eight starters back. They move up a class, to 4A. Macey Kleitsch (17-13, 1.21 ERA) headlines a strong pitching combo, and also batted a team-best .382. Youngsters Heather Heims and Ella Koloc have some pop, combining for seven home runs last season. The Wamac East has evolved into a deep division, and the Hawks should be in the thick of it.

CLASS RANKINGS:

* Class 5A — 1. C.R. Kennedy (33-6), 2. Iowa City High (25-19), 3. C.R. Jefferson (36-9), 4. C.R. Prairie (28-13), 5. Iowa City West (17-24).

* Class 4A — 1. Independence (35-7), 2. West Delaware (24-16), 3. Marion (19-17), 4. C.R. Xavier (26-17), 5. Clear Creek Amana (16-18).

* Class 3A — 1. Solon (27-8), 2. Benton Community (28-15), 3. West Liberty (24-11), 4. Mount Vernon (23-19), 5. Anamosa (13-17).

* Class 2A — 1. North Linn (38-5), 2. Iowa City Regina (25-16), 3. Jesup (27-12), 4. MFL MarMac (15-17), 5. Highland (14-13).

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* Class 1A — 1. Lisbon (35-9), 2. Central City (32-11), 3. Sigourney (21-7), 4. BGM (17-9), 5. Lone Tree (11-11).

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

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