Small College Sports

Kirkwood baseball shoveled for the chance to sweep

Seventh-ranked Eagles sweep Iowa Central two days after clearing snow from field

Taylor Jackson, Kirkwood freshman
Taylor Jackson, Kirkwood freshman

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Kirkwood Eagles came equipped with bats and gloves for their home opener.

They even handled rakes after each game to maintain the baseball diamond. Of course, these are regular tools of the baseball trade.

The preparation to get these games in, however, wasn’t so normal. The Eagles had to clear multiple inches of snow from half the field two days earlier just to prevent a postponement Friday.

“Our kids did an unbelievable job of moving snow. It shows their commitment to wanting to play and having their home opener,” Kirkwood Coach Todd Rima said. “We got great help from our grounds guys. They were tremendous and without that work there is no chance we play (Friday).”

Kirkwood’s effort was rewarded in the form of a doubleheader sweep over Iowa Central. The seventh-ranked Eagles received a game-winning home run from Taylor Jackson in the bottom of the seventh for a 6-5 victory in the opener. Kirkwood tallied 14 hits, including three home runs, in an 8-1 rout in the second game.

“We just beat a really good team and did it in two different ways,” Rima said. “I thought our pitchers did a good job in game one and then Jackson had the two big hits. We just put together more of a complete game in game two.”

Last weekend, a late winter storm dumped about six inches of snow on Cedar Rapids. Playing in chilly temperatures isn’t a rarity during Iowa springs, but this was nothing close to ordinary. The Eagles handled it in a businesslike fashion.

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“We were talking as coaches and I had never seen anything like this,” Rima said. “We moved so much snow and were able to practice the next day. We’re just fortunate.”

Jackson said the team was practicing indoors when Rima called for the team to spring into action. It was a shock, but they got the job done. He never imagined the field would need to be shoveled to play.

“He said to get over to the field and get some boots, gloves and come shovel the snow,” Jackson said. “We were like, ‘Man, look at all this snow’ as soon as we showed up. It’s like, no way we’re playing, but Coach Rima had faith that we were going to get it done and play.”

Kirkwood left fielder Ellison Hanna is from Nassau, Bahamas. This was a first for the current Iowa Community College Athletic Conference Athlete of the Week.

“They don’t shovel a lot of snow in the Bahamas,” Rima said with a laugh. “He got it figured out.”

Jackson delivered for the Eagles in the opener. He stepped to the plate after Iowa Central tied the game with two runs in the top of the seventh. Jackson drilled a shot over the left-field fence for his first ever walk-off home run.

“It was pretty intense,” Jackson said. “It was nice. It was a great feeling.

“It felt like I got all of it.”

Jackson drove in the Eagles' final three runs of the game, hitting a liner that cleared the right-field wall for a two-run homer and 5-3 edge in the fifth.

“I was thinking two (bases) or a triple,” Jackson said. “Luckily it got over.”

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Spencer Wiskus joined the Eagles lineup Friday. In just his second at-bat this season, he smacked a solo home run for a 3-1 lead in the first game. He added a two-run single in the second game and is a welcome addition in the order.

“It was great to have him back,” Rima said. “That helps our lineup and I think we’re a better team with him back.”

Cam Leff allowed one run in six innings for the win in the second game. The Eagles gave him plenty of run support.

Kal Youngquist, Cal Clark and Joel Thompson each had home runs for Kirkwood, which improved to 20-3 with its 11th straight victory. The Eagles have a mix of power and speed to steal bases, pressuring opponents.

“Our guys have been working really hard at it,” Rima said. “We have some juice in our lineup this year and that’s what we like.”

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

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