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Saturday, May 28, 2016
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Metro Sports Report

Healthy Butz delivers for Kirkwood

Tyler Butz was playing catch before the first game of the season for the Kirkwood Eagles last year in Kansas when he felt a sharp pain in his right elbow.

He played anyway that day and appeared in a few games after that on Kirkwood's spring trip to Florida, but an MRI revealed that he'd torn the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow and needed surgery.

Butz, a Cedar Rapids Prairie grad, was granted a medical red-shirt for the 2015 campaign and returned this season as a third-year sophomore to try and resurrect his baseball career.

Butz and the Eagles are sure glad he did.

Butz delivered a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday to give Kirkwood a 4-3 victory over Ellsworth in the first game of an ICCAC conference double-header at the Kirkwood field.

The Eagles won the second game, 7-3, in the conference opener.

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Kirkwood whips No. 1 Triton for national title

DANVILLE, Ill. - The Kirkwood Eagles nearly gave their coach and fans a heart attack Saturday night by missing a bunch of free throws in the final minutes of the NJCAA championship game, but they survived the ordeal and left the gym at Danville Community College with huge smiles and the biggest prize in junior college men's basketball.

The sixth-ranked Eagles whipped top-ranked Triton College, 83-76, in the finals of the NJCAA Division II tournament to claim the second national title in school history.

Kirkwood missed 11 free throws in the final four minutes and two seconds, but managed to hang onto the lead and cut down the championship nets.

"All right!," Coach Bryan Petersen exclaimed as he snipped the final strand and displayed the net to the Kirkwood players and fans.

Petersen, 28, was a junior college All-American at Kirkwood in 2007 before becoming a two-year starter at Iowa State. Now he's led the Eagles to the national championship in just his third year as head coach.

"It still hasn't quite set in yet on what we just did, but I couldn't be more happy for our kids and what they did with the special run this week and all year," he said. "Pretty cool stuff."

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Fantastic rally lifts Eagles into NJCAA finals

DANVILLE, Ill. - It looked like the Kirkwood Eagles had run out of steam at the NJCAA Division II national basketball tournament Friday night when they trailed by 23 points early in the second half, but that just was a mirage.

As it turns out, they were just getting started.

The sixth-ranked Eagles staged a phenomenal rally and stunned third-ranked Essex County of New Jersey, 77-66, in the semifinals of the national tourney in Danville, Ill.

Kirkwood (30-4) will face top-ranked Triton (34-2), an 82-77 winner over second-ranked South Suburban on Friday, in the NJCAA finals Saturday night at 7:30. The Eagles won the national title in 1998 and are seeking the second crown in school history.

Kirkwood fell behind by 24 points in the first half and trailed by 23 points at 53-30 in the second half when they began their magnificent surge to victory. Incredibly, the Eagles outscored Essex 45-7 from that point to turn a 23-point deficit into a 15-point lead at 75-60 with 20.4 seconds left in the game.

"It was an unbelievable game," said Kirkwood Coach Bryan Petersen. "We got off to probably the worst start we could have had. We dug ourselves a hole right away.

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Sweeney makes bid for spot with Twins

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Ryan Sweeney was drafted by the Chicago White Sox shortly after graduating from Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids back in 2003. He signed his first professional contract that July and from that time on, he spent every summer of his adult life playing professional baseball – until last summer.

Sweeney, 31, had spent parts of nine seasons in the Major Leagues for the White Sox, Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs before being released by the Cubs at the end of spring training a year ago.

This spring, Sweeney is back on the diamond, this time trying to claim a spot in the Minnesota Twins’ outfield.

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Eagles top Louisburg in OT, make NJCAA semis

DANVILLE, Ill. - Freshman Byron Harp scored nine points in overtime Wednesday night as the Kirkwood Eagles edged Louisburg, 89-83, in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Division II national tournament in Danville, Ill.

The sixth-ranked Eagles (29-4) will face third-ranked Essex of New Jersey (28-4) in the semifinals Friday night at 6 p.m.

Kirkwood had a chance to win the game in the final seconds of regulation, but Harp and Da'Rion King missed shots.

The Eagles were clinging to a 78-77 lead in overtime when Harp went to work. His baskets gave the Eagles a pair of three-point leads at 80-77 and 82-79.

Kirkwood was leading 83-81 when Harp drilled a 3-pointer from the corneron an assist from Hunter Rhodes, making it 86-81 with 60 seconds left.

Louisburg pulled within 86-83, but Harp nailed two free throws with 19 seconds left to make it 88-83.

Louisburg missed a 3-pointer and Rhodes hit one free throw with 10.9 seconds left to finish the scoring.

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