Small College Sports

Kirkwood baseball has thrived with talent and unity

World Series team contains numerous NCAA Division I commits

CEDAR RAPIDS — Todd Rima has attracted and developed his share of talent in six seasons leading Kirkwood’s baseball program.

Even Rima conceded the current Eagles have a claim as the best collection of talent he has assembled on one team.

“We’ve had some really good teams and really good players," Rima said. “We just think from top to bottom — our depth, pitching and our athleticism — this is the best we’ve had.”

The Eagles earned a berth to the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Okla. Third-seeded Kirkwood opens with Madison (Wis.) College on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.

Kirkwood (42-15-1) advanced to its first World Series in 19 years by beating Southeast (Neb.) Community College in a best-of-3 district series.

The Eagles are stocked with talent destined for higher levels. Rima has directed a number of players to four-year programs, including the NCAA D-I level. This year’s squad is no different.

Kirkwood’s Korry Howell, an Iowa commit, returned this season after being drafted in the 19th round by the Kansas City Royals in 2017. Izaya Fullard and Hunter Lee have also committed to the Hawkeyes. Sophomore Cal Clark will play at Houston Baptist. Spencer Wiskus and Ellison Hanna have committed to Indiana State. Pitcher Adam Ketelsen committed to Central Michigan, Cameron Leff is going to Murray State, Kaden Wadle was inked by Western Illinois and Cal Stalzer will go to George Washington. Ross Kramer had previously committed to Purdue, but has reversed that decision and has received other offers. Other players are going to play at NAIA programs, including sophomore Chili Moseley.

All the elements for success exist. The Eagles can stockpile runs to go along with pitching that can limit opposing batters. Kirkwood also has a solid and reliable defense.

“I have never had more fun in my life, showing up to the field to play and being surrounded by so many great players and teammates,” Clark said. “We know that at any point if we get down in a game we have the offense and pitching depth to get right back in it.

“When we get up in games, we can make the lead even bigger. It’s fun when we’re hitting well.”

Kirkwood has hit .339 as a team with a .437 on-base percentage this season, tallying 486 runs and averaging more than eight per game. The Eagles have belted 55 home runs.

Production doesn’t matter as long as they win. They all share an unselfish mentality, relying on their teammates to pick them up on an off day.

“All of us put the team before ourselves,” Clark said. “It doesn’t matter who has the stats on a particular day as long as the Eagles come out on top of the scoreboard. Everybody on the team knows the next day is going to be their day.”

Rima credits the unity and camaraderie for being a catalyst for success. They thrive together.

“I think that is something that has taken us to the next level,” Rima said. “I think we have a lot of leaders on our team. Korry Howell and Chili Moseley have really stepped up for us and taken that leadership to the next level.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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