Prep Softball

Softball notes: With arrival of Isabelle True, West Liberty is legit

True story: Comets are a major player in 3A

They were going to be competitive anyway.

The West Liberty Comets brought back eight starters from a team that went 24-11 last season.

Then came the big addition. Isabelle True, a senior pitcher who led Louisa-Muscatine to the Class 2A state championship last season, suddenly moved into the school district in May.

True was immediately eligible, and West Liberty was immediately a major player in 3A.

“It was a bit of a difficult transition, moving from one program to another,” Comets Coach Chad Libby said. “Initially, I think she was pressing a little bit, trying to impress. But she has a good work ethic, and the girls have accepted her.

“I think she’s starting to settle in. She has seemed a lot more comfortable and confident the last week or two.”

» This week's Gazette area Super 10 softball rankings

True has a 5-0 mark in the pitching circle, sophomore Janey Gingerich has matched it, and the Comets are 11-1. At 7-1 in the River Valley Conference, they stand in first place in a stacked South Division.

“We were going to be good with Gingerich pitching anyway,” Libby said. “The addition of Isabelle allows us to throw two aces in a doubleheader.”

True owns a 1.01 ERA and Gingerich is at 1.64. Meanwhile, the Comets are averaging 7.2 runs per contest.

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“We’re pretty athletic, and we like to run,” Libby said. “We put the ball in play and are able to manufacture some runs.”

Junior Hailee Lehman leads the team in hitting (.465) and stolen bases (11).

Austyn Crees (junior) and Finley Hall (eighth grade) both are hitting .419, and junior Brittney Harned is the RBI leader with 11.

At No. 8, West Liberty is one of 10 Eastern Iowa teams in the 3A top 15 this week. The aim is to keep climbing for the most favorable regional draw possible.

“Our schedule is kind of backloaded; we have a lot of tough games yet,” Libby said. “Our goals have shifted a little bit. We have the expectation to be in Fort Dodge in July.”

Big change in Iowa City High

One of the major takeaways from Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s sweep of Iowa City High on Tuesday was this:

The Little Hawks’ pitching has made great strides from 2018.

“We went toe to toe with them in the circle,” City Coach Jeff Koenig said after Kennedy claimed a pair of 2-1 decisions. “Our pitching clearly is better, and our defense is a little better, too.”

The numbers are proof. As a tandem, sophomores Ayana Lindsey and Ella Cook have improved in all categories since last year.

ERA — from 3.05 to 1.48.

Strikeouts per inning — from 0.59 to 0.75.

Strikeout-to-walk ratio — from 1.51 to 5.07.

West Delaware hosts 16-team tournament

For the most part, weekend classics have taken the place of weekend tournaments in recent years, but this weekend’s Hawk Invitational at Manchester is an exception.

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It’s an old-school 16-team, bracketed tournament in which all teams will play four games.

Top contenders include West Delaware, North Linn, Independence and Linn-Mar.

Play begins at 9 a.m. Friday. The championship game is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Saturday.

First round pairings:

2A No. 1 North Linn vs. North Fayette Valley

Dubuque Wahlert vs. 4A No. 8 Independence

4A No. 9 West Delaware vs. Cedar Rapids Washington

Cascade vs. Starmont

3A No. 15 Williamsburg vs. Maquoketa Valley

Linn-Mar vs. Crestwood

2A No. 12 Dyersville Beckman vs. Edgewood-Colesburg

Lansing Kee vs. Monticello

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

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