CEDAR RAPIDS — Miranda Kaste’s toughness is much greater than her miniature frame.
The Kirkwood sophomore is physically tough, overcoming a broken leg that sidelined her for two seasons. She has the fortitude to embrace any task the team needs, even if that means throwing against the top-ranked team in the country in her first pitching appearance in about six seasons.
“Miranda Kaste is our heart and soul,” Kirkwood Coach Joe Yegge said. “That kid has more courage than anyone in the country.
“For her to come in and throw three shutout innings against the No. 1 team in the nation is all heart.”
Kaste was effective in relief, going 3 2/3 innings in the nightcap, even though NJCAA Division II top-ranked DMACC earned a sweep of the No. 2-ranked Eagles Wednesday at Kirkwood. Molly Jacobsen threw a two-hit shutout for the Bears in a 6-0 victory in the opener. DMACC (26-0) used a six-run fourth, taking the second game, 9-7.
“We’ll get better,” Yegge said. “I’m not worried about that. This doesn’t define us.
“Today the better team won and we’ll get another crack at them.”
Kaste is making the most of her opportunity this season, starting at second base in the first game and making two inning-ending plays.
She has returned to the diamond after the broken leg originally robbed her of a freshman season. She missed another year due to stress fractures that occurred in an attempt to return. She refused to give up and was determined to take the field again.
“There were tough times throughout my injury, especially since it was two years long,” said Kaste, of Muscatine. “I’m really glad I didn’t give up. This is my first year playing college softball (and) what I’ve always wanted to do. Just being able to do that, I’m really thankful.”
Pitching came as more of a surprise. With the defection of three pitchers, the Eagles were left with two on the roster. Kaste recalled Yegge telling her to warm up during a fall game, thinking it was to send a message to other pitchers. Yegge must have witnessed some potential.
“Since we only have two pitchers now he had me working all winter,” Kaste said. “Pitching just because we need another pitcher on staff.”
Yegge said, “I can’t speak highly enough of that kid. She’s an amazing person.”
The Eagles (29-5) showed some resilience, fighting back after the loss and deficits of 3-0 and 9-2. Kirkwood scored its first run on a DoniRae Mayhew homer in the first and added another on an RBI double by Lauren Kuch in the third. The Eagles added five in the sixth after Kaste quieted the Bears’ bats. Kuch had a two-run single, Sonya McCormick added an RBI base hit and Lauren Klaahsen also drove in a run.
Kuch had three hits and three RBIs. Kenaday Waugh, Mayhew and McCormick had two hits piece in the nightcap. “I think a lot of it tells how they feel about Miranda, too,” Yegge said. “They rallied around her. They respect that kid so much.”
Some of the rally came off Jacobsen, who came in to close the second game after striking seven in the opener. Yegge said the Eagles made her work for each out and it will be used as a learning experience.
“I think we had decent at-bats,” Yegge said. “I don’t think we were dominated by the best pitcher in the nation and Molly is the best pitcher in the nation.”
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Former Cedar Rapids Jefferson standout Avery Guy led off and played shortstop for the Bears. She reached base twice, reaching on a single and scoring in the second game. She had an RBI sacrifice fly in the opener.
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