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Sunday, June 26, 2016
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor
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Metro Sports Report

MSR bouncing back with new business model

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who has supported the Metro Sports Report since we launched the website in 2011. And I'd also like to thank everyone who reacted with sadness and disappointment when we announced March 13 that the company was broke and having to curtail operations.

Your words of support and encouragement made me try even harder to find a way to keep the Metro Sports Report alive. I'm a stubborn guy, and too many people had worked long and hard to simply let go.

For those reasons and many others, I am delighted to announce that we'll be bouncing back this month with a new business model that will reduce our expenses, improve our bottom line and keep us on the job.

The idea hit when I was driving around Cedar Rapids about a month ago: What if we switched from "general" advertising revenues that supported our entire operation and moved toward "targeted" advertising that would support our coverage of a particular school or team?

It's no secret that our advertising support was stronger in certain parts of the Metro area than others. For example, there was financial support for our coverage of schools A, B and C, but little support for schools D, E and F, but we were trying to stretch our resources to cover everyone as fairly and equally as possible.

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Simpson puts 'teeth' into No .4 Eagles

Nicky Simpson lost two of her front teeth in a bullpen accident earlier this season, but it hasn't kept the All-American pitcher from enjoying another terrific year with the Kirkwood Eagles.

And make no mistake, the sophomore from Conrad has had plenty to smile about - despite the missing teeth.

Simpson tossed another strong game Monday as the fourth-ranked Eagles belted Iowa Lakes, 14-3, in five innings in the championship game of the NJCAA Division 2 Region XI-A softball tournament at Kirkwood.

Simpson raised her record to a sparkling 27-2 as Kirkwood cruised into the district tournament this weekend at home.

The Eagles (54-4) are riding a 30-game winning streak with their lusty hitting and strong pitching. And if they win the district title, they'll make another trip to the national tournament in Mississippi this month.

Simpson was warming up to pitch the second game of a doubleheader against DMACC on March 26 at Kirkwood when the accident occurred. The first game was still in progress and when she turned her head to check on the action, a return throw from the bullpen catcher struck her square in the mouth.

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Nearad hits for cycle as No. 4 Kirkwood rolls

Taylor Nearad put a big exclamation point on her bid to be named the National Player of the Year Friday.

Kirkwood's talented center-fielder hit for the cycle as the fourth-ranked Eagles ripped Ellsworth, 15-0, in five innings in the opening round of the regional softball tournament at Kirkwood.

Nearad collected a single and a two-run triple in the first inning when Kirkwood batted around and scored nine runs. She lined a two-run homer in the third inning and had an RBI double in the fourth.

The freshman from Solon went 4-for-4, drove in five runs and hit for the cycle with a single, double, triple and home run in just four innings.

Nearad is now hitting .619 with 26 home runs and 115 RBIs in 56 games as she bids for the NJCAA Division II Triple Crown. She also has 133 hits, 102 runs, 27 doubles and 11 triples and ranks No. 1 in the nation in numerous offensive categories.

Few people have seen anything like it.

"I have not, to be honest," said Kirkwood assistant coach Jenny Nelson, who was an All-American for the Eagles during her playing days. "It's pretty special to watch.

"And knowing how she is as a kid and a person, it makes me that much more proud of her. She's such a great kid and a great teammate."

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Carter lifts No. 4 Eagles after Yegge tossed

Gabi Carter and the Kirkwood Eagles kept their calm Sunday after Coach Joe Yegge was ejected during the second game of their doubleheader against Iowa Central.

The Eagles rallied from a 2-0 deficit and trimmed the Tritons, 3-2, in eight innings on Carter's two-out single that drove in Taylor Nearad with the winning run with Yegge watching through a window in nearby Johnson Hall.

Kirkwood won the first game, 8-0, and clinched the outright ICCAC Conference title with a 27-1 record.

Yegge was tossed in the second inning of the nightcap after arguing a bang-bang play at first base. Iowa Central took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning on a two-run homer, but Kirkwood tied the game in the bottom of the sixth and grabbed the victory when Carter lashed a base hit inside the third-base line with runners at first and second.

Carter liked coming to the plate in the game-winning situation.

"It's definitely an energy rush, to be honest," said Carter, a Cedar Rapids Prairie grad. "I just knew I had to get the ball down on the ground because I'd been hitting everything in the air."

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Hansen helps No. 4 Eagles clinch ICCAC title

Maddie Hansen is getting a lot of good pitches to hit this season as a freshman at Kirkwood, a refreshing change from last year when opponents regularly pitched around her at Cedar Rapids Jefferson.

Hansen has jumped on the opportunity and is hitting .453 with 13 home runs and 66 RBIs for the fourth-ranked Eagles, who have one of the top offenses in the country.

Kirkwood swept a conference doubleheader Saturday from Northeast, 14-0 and 12-0, to clinch at least a tie for the ICCAC title and give Coach Joe Yegge the 500th victory of his career.

Hansen went 2-for-3 in the opener with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. She did not get any hits in the second game, but contributed to the victory with more stellar defense behind the plate.

Hansen had 34 walks in 44 games at Jefferson last season, the third-most walks in the state. She still managed to hit .492 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs for the J-Hawks, but her numbers would have been even higher if not for the free passes.

This year, opponents are pitching to Hansen and she's producing.

"I really like it compared to my senior year," she said Saturday. "There were a few games that were a little frustrating last year, but it's good to see some good pitches and get the job done."

Ironically, Kirkwood Coach Joe Yegge was one of those high school coaches who regularly gave Hansen an intentional walk in his role as the head coach at Cedar Rapids Prairie.

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