Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

Small College Sports

Kirkwood softball readies for national tournament

Eagles have shown a variety of ways to score

CEDAR RAPIDS — Sometimes it’s the speed. Sometimes it’s the power.

But somehow, some way, the Kirkwood Community College softball team is going to find a way to score runs.

Lots of them.

“When we’re clicking, we’re hard to slow down offensively,” first-year coach Eric Frese said. “We have a lot of moving pieces, and a lot of ways to score runs.”

It depends on the day. And it can depend on something as fickle as wind direction.

“We’re pretty versatile,” Frese said. “We can put different lineups out there. If the wind is blowing in, we’ll use a speed lineup. If the wind’s blowing out, we might go with a little more power.”

Frese was talking Monday during a bus ride to Clinton, Miss., home of the NJCAA Division II national tournament. Kirkwood (50-15) is the No. 7 seed and will face Illinois Central in the first round of the 16-team, double-elimination event at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Eagles advanced by beating Dawson (Mont.) in a best-of-3 super regional. The Eagles lost the first game, 1-0, then blasted the Buccaneers by verdicts of 12-3 and 19-2.

“It was a long trip out there, and the kids were ready,” Frese said. “They really wanted to make it down (to Mississippi).”

Frese succeeded Joe Yegge, now an assistant at DePaul University. His team looks a lot like its recent predecessors.

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Outfielder Shelby Hulsebus, a freshman and a former all-stater at Benton Community, slid into the leadoff role early in the season. She is hitting .467 with 60 runs and 56 stolen bases.

London Jackson gives the Eagles some thunder in the middle of the order. A freshman from East Moline, Ill., Jackson has clobbered 22 home runs and has driven in 64 runs.

Erin Hocker (freshman, Great Falls, Mont.) has emerged as the top pitcher. She is 26-9 with a 1.84 ERA and is averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

“She gives us a chance to beat anybody any time she pitches,” Frese said.

If Kirkwood wins, the Eagles play at 3:30 Thursday afternoon. A loss would send the Eagles into the consolation bracket, starting at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

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

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