Saturday, March 25, 2017
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

Rima excited about Kirkwood baseball team

Kirkwood baseball coach Todd Rima plans to have three catchers and  three shortstops in his starting line Saturday when the Eagles begin  the season against Johnson County, but don't be alarmed.

It's a sign of strength, not insanity.

Kirkwood is blessed with an abundance of talented catchers and  shortstops who are capable of playing other positions, so this is a  way to strength the overall lineup.

"It allows us to put our nine best offensive guys on the field," Rima  said this week, "and we can do that and still be good on defense.

"We had to move some guys just to make sure we could get all their  bats in the lineup."

Toran Shadidi, who missed last season with an injury after hitting  .342 in 2015, has earned the starting job behind the plate.

Spencer Wiskus, who was a star catcher at Iowa City West, has moved to  first base. And Tyler Bordner, a part-time catcher for Kirkwood last  year and a .354 hitter, has moved to right field.

"I think Shahidi is as good as any catcher in our league," said Rima.  "And Wiskus and Bordner are really good.


Healthy Joens helps Saints top Mount Vernon

MOUNT VERNON - Welcome back, Jackson Joens.

The Xavier Saints were mighty glad to have you on their side again Thursday night when it really counted.

Joens returned to the lineup after missing two games with a concussion and played a key role as Xavier topped seventh-ranked Mount Vernon, 63-55, in the Class 3A district finals at Mount Vernon.

Joens popped in 19 points as the Saints (12-11) earned a spot against Dubuque Wahlert (7-15) in the substate finals Monday night at 6:30 at  the U.S. Cellular Center, with the winner advancing to the Class 3A  state tournament in Des Moines.

Joens suffered a concussion Feb. 14 when the Saints beat Wahlert, 71-52, and was idle for more than a week, but he finally got the green light to play again Wednesday.

"I got cleared yesterday," he said. "I went to our trainer to see if I could play and I was pretty happy, pretty excited.

"They had me do a concussion test. They asked me a bunch of words and a bunch of numbers and stuff."

He got all the answers right, but does not want to go through all of that again. "Not fun," he said.


Umthun named new A.D. at Xavier

Xavier High School has hired Andrew Umthun from Estherville Lincoln Central High School as its next activities director, the school announced Friday morning.

The Xavier Board of Education officially approved Umthun’s hiring Thursday.

Umthun will officially begin his new duties July 1. He succeeds Steven Lueck, who resigned as Xavier's A.D. in December after serving less than six months on the job.

Umthun, a native of Des Moines and 2001 graduate of Dowling Catholic, currently serves as the activities director, assistant principal and head football coach at Estherville Lincoln Central, positions he has held since 2014.

Prior to his administrative role, Umthun served on the Estherville Lincoln Central faculty as its Director of Alternative High School Program from 2013-2014. Before his time in Estherville, Umthun served as a faculty member at Bishop Heelan Catholic High School in Sioux City and was the school’s strength and conditioning director.

“We are excited to welcome Andy Umthun as Xavier’s activities director,” Xavier principal Tom Keating said in a news release. “Andy brings  experience as an outstanding teacher, coach and administrator, directing a successful 3A athletic, fine arts and co-curricular program.

"His Catholic school background as a student and educator will serve him well in his role at Xavier. We look forward to the energy and  vision he will bring to continue to provide our students with an  outstanding activities experience.”


No. 1 Eagles lose Ajak to torn ACL

Kirkwood Coach Kim Muhl is confident his team can make a good run in the postseason tournament next month, but the top-ranked Eagles will have to do it without Awal Ajak.

Ajak, a 6-foot freshman from Des Moines, confirmed Wednesday night that she suffered a torn ACL in her left knee in a win over Southwestern on Feb. 11 and has been lost for the season. Her surgery is scheduled for Monday.

Kirkwood collected another blowout Wednesday with an 85-37 victory over Southeastern Community College at Johnson Hall, but Muhl knows the Eagles will face stiff competition if they reach the national tournament and compete for the national title.

Kirkwood (27-0, 11-0) has not been pushed by too many teams this season, but Muhl is confident they'll respond to the challenge when  the time comes and kick into a higher gear, even without Ajak.

"With this group, I think they can," he said. "They've got a pretty strong mental approach to the game. They know what's at stake.

"They bought in, they guard and they really pass the ball to each other."

Ajak, a key reserve on a deep and talented club, was averaging 8.1 points and 3.7 rebounds when she got hurt. She watched Wednesday's game in street clothes with her crutches nearby.


Xavier's victory leaves Lilly in tears

Tom Lilly has won 522 games and four state titles during his 32 years as a girls basketball coach, but his emotional well still runs deep  after all that time.

Lilly dissolved in tears Tuesday night after the sixth-ranked Xavier  Saints trimmed 13th-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock, 42-38, in the regional  finals to earn a trip to the Class 4A state tournament.

Lilly hugged long-time assistant coach and pal Stephanie Potts after the buzzer sounded in the intense ballgame and he needed his trademark blue towel to wipe away the tears.

"It's always a special moment," Lilly said after getting his emotions  under control. "I just felt our seniors have given us so much this year.

"I knew that at the end of it, somebody was going to be extremely  disappointed because it was very hard-fought, it was back and forth, neither team was going to given an inch.

"And we just happened to prevail with a 14-year-old," he said with a  wry smile. That's pretty amazing on how that all works out."

Freshman Caitlynn Daniels is actually 15 now, but the rookie made two of the biggest plays in the game in the final minute with the state  berth on the line.


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