Wednesday, July 27, 2016
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

Muhl signs 11 freshmen for Kirkwood hoops

Introductions could be in order when the Kirkwood women's basketball team assembles for practice this fall.

Coach Kim Muhl has signed 11 freshmen and hopes to add a pair of college transfers to the mix as well, giving the Eagles as many as 13 new players on the roster for the 2016-17 campaign.

Only two players - Deleyah Harris and Rylee Voss - plan to return from this year's club as sophomores, giving Muhl a big rebuilding job as he enters his 28th year at Kirkwood.

Junior college coaches have to rebuild their teams every year, since nobody can play for more than two seasons at this level, and Muhl sounds unperturbed by the challenge.

"I think it's the nature of the beast at this level," he said. "The freshmen come in a little bit hungrier. Some figure it out, some don't. It's OK."

Kirkwood had six freshmen on the team this past season, but Amber Lemons, Mesha Wheatly, Ariana Dampier and Dominique Jennings will not be returning from a club that finished 27-6. That leaves Harris, a starting guard, and Voss, a reserve center, as the only two returnees.


Kirkwood softball places 5th at nationals

CLINTON, Miss. - The Kirkwood Eagles lost both of their games at the NJCAA D2 national softball tournament Friday and tied for fifth place.

Kirkwood lost to Jones County, 7-6, in the winner's bracket semifinals, then lost to Phoenix, 5-2, in a loser's bracket game and was eliminated from the tournament.

The Eagles finished the season with a 58-6 record.

Kirkwood, which was seeded No. 2 in the tournament, went 2-2 in the tournament in Mississippi. Jones County, which is seeded No. 3, advanced to the winner's bracket finals against LSU Eunice. Phoenix, which is seeded No. 1, stayed alive in the loser's bracket.

Kirkwood trailed Jones County, 7-2, heading into the bottom of the seventh inning in the winner's bracket semifinals. The Eagles loaded the bases and pulled within 7-3 on a sacrifice fly by Taylor Nearad. Lexi Ferrari struck out, but Maddie Hansen belted a three-run homer to pull the Eagles within 7-6 with two outs.


Kinnaird shines as Eagles blank Highland

CLINTON, Miss. - Freshman Lexi Kinnaird spun a seven-hit shutout Thursday as the Kirkwood Eagles blanked Highland, 6-0, in the second round of the NJCAA D2 national softball tournament at Traceway Park.

Kirkwood (58-4) will face Jones County (47-6) in the winner's bracket semifinals Friday at noon. Kirkwood is the No. 2 seed in the 16-team tournament and Jones County, from Mississippi, is the No. 3 seed.

Kinnaird (25-2) struck out four batters and walked two in the seven-inning ballgame. The Eagles broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the third inning for a 3-0 lead. They made it 4-0 in the fourth and tacked on two insurance runs in the top of the seventh.

Morgan Frost went 3-for-4 for Kirkwood with two doubles and two RBIs. Lexi Ferrari was 3-for-3 with a double and two runs. Peyton Mercer went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

Gabi Carter collected a double, two walks and two runs for the Eagles. Maddie Hansen contributed an RBI. Taylor Nearad went 1-for-4 with a run.


Nearad stars as Kirkwood wins tourney opener

CLINTON, Miss. - Taylor Nearad made a big first impression at the NJCAA Division II national softball tournament Wednesday.

Nearad went 4-for-4 with two doubles, two home runs and five RBIs as the Kirkwood Eagles trimmed Illinois Valley, 8-7, in the opening round of the tournament in Clinton, Miss.

Nearad, a freshman from Solon, also made two outstanding catches in center field, gunned down a runner at third base and had a stolen base.

"She was great," said Kirkwood Coach Joe Yegge. "Her second home run went about 270-275 feet. It was a monster home run."

Nearad's two homers gave her 29 for the season, snapping the school record of 28. She is hitting .622 with 126 RBIs as she bids for the NJCAA Division II Triple Crown.

Kirkwood had to scramble to defeat Illinois Valley, despite Nearad's heroics. The Eagles are seeded No. 2 in the 16-team tournament and Illinois Valley is seeded No. 15, but the game was tied 7-7 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning before the Eagles pulled it out.


Cataldo takes reins of Xavier baseball team

New coach. New uniforms. New dugout.

There's definitely something new in the air at Xavier High School, where Bob Cataldo has succeeded Dave Schemmel as the head baseball coach heading into the 2016 campaign.

Schemmel had been the only head coach in school history, starting when Xavier opened its doors in 1998, but he retired after the 2015 season with a record of 431-234 in 17 years, including a state title in 2006 and two other trips to the state finals.

Cataldo, 46, served as a volunteer assistant with the Xavier varsity the last three years and is the president of the Xavier booster club. Now he's the main man in the dugout and is excited about working with a bunch of "blue collar, lunch box" players who he said are dedicated to the game and have a high baseball IQ.

"I think the attitude, first and foremost, is tremendous," he said Tuesday. "The kids are buying into the program.

"These kids have been taught well coming through the Saints program. They're sponges. They want to learn new things, they want to learn new ways of drilling."

Cataldo said he valued his time in the dugout with Schemmel the last three years.


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