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Wednesday, May 04, 2016
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Metro Sports Report

Nearad bidding for national Triple Crown

Taylor Nearad led the state in RBIs last season when she helped Solon High School win the Class 3A softball title, but now she's bidding for even bigger honors with the Kirkwood Eagles.

Nearad is enjoying a phenomenal season at Kirkwood and is making a strong bid for the national Triple Crown with a .624 batting average, 21 home runs and 94 RBIs in 47 games.

She currently tops all NJCAA Division II players in all three major categories after enjoying another sensational day at the ballpark Sunday when the fourth-ranked Eagles swept a conference doubleheader from Southwestern, 16-8 and 9-1.

Nearad went 7-for-8 in the twin-bill with two doubles, a triple, a home run and seven RBIs from the leadoff spot in the order.

"Honestly in my 20 years of doing this, she might be the best player I've had the opportunity to work with," said Kirkwood Coach Joe Yegge. "Everything she does is effortless.

"And she's the type of kid that she doesn't even care (about her numbers). She probably doesn't even know what she's hitting. She just goes about her business."

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No. 19 Eagles slam No. 9 Iowa Central

The Kirkwood Eagles enjoyed a grand day at the ballpark Saturday.

Matt Paciello began the doubleheader with a grand slam and JT Sole finished the twin-bill with another four-run homer as the 19th-ranked Eagles swept No. 9 Iowa Central, 11-1 and 11-6, in an ICCAC double-dip at the Kirkwood field.

Nick Drahozal tossed a two-hitter in the first game, Brandon Brittain delivered the game-winning hit in the second game and everybody who played made a contribution to the big victories.

The sweep lifted Kirkwood into sole possession of first place in the ICCAC with an 11-3 record at the mid-point of the conference race, one full game ahead of NIACC and Southeastern and two games ahead of Iowa Central.

The Eagles (25-13) had dropped 5 of 6 games heading into Saturday's action, but Paciello steered them in the right direction when he socked his grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the first inning of the opener.

Kirkwood loaded the bases with nobody out, but the next two batters were retired before Paciello lined a 3-2 pitch over the fence in left field for an early 4-0 lead.

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Petersen honored as Coach of the Year

Rewarded for his role in Kirkwood's first national championship run since 1998, Bryan Petersen was recognized Tuesday as the Spalding NJCAA Division II Men's Basketball Coach of the Year by the NJCAA DII Men's Basketball Committee.

Compiling a 31-4 overall record for the year, Petersen's squad lost just two games to DII opponents as two of its defeats came at the hands of an Iowa Western team that consistently ranked in the DI top 25 throughout the year. The Eagles' exceptional season culminated in an 83-76 upset of top-seeded Triton (Ill.) in the NJCAA DII Men's Basketball Championship Game.

Making the title run more special for Petersen was his deep ties to the program. A former Kirkwood player from 2005-07, Petersen returned to his alma mater as an assistant in 2012-13. One year later, he was promoted to head coach and immediately began to put the program back on the national landscape.

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Kirkwood baseball swept by No. 13 NIACC

The Kirkwood Eagles had little choice Saturday night.

They needed to go home, get warm and flush Saturday's double-header against NIACC from their system as soon as possible and get ready for a better performance on Sunday.

The 13th-ranked NIACC Trojans swept the Eagles, 8-1 and 16-5, in a chilly ICCAC conference twin-bill at Kirkwood.

"We have to flush it," said KCC Coach Todd Rima. "We don't have any other choice. We've got to move on and be better tomorrow."

Kirkwood and NIACC are scheduled for another double-header Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Kirkwood field, weather permitting.

"We've got to show up ready to go tomorrow," said Rima. "We're going to be a better team and we'll have to play well to win.

"Our guys will come ready to play. They'll respond," he vowed. "They've responded all year. There's no reason they won't do it tomorrow."

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Grimm is no fairy tale for Eagles

Bryce Grimm has gone from being a part-time starter for the Kirkwood baseball team at the beginning of his freshman year in 2015 to one of the stars of the team this season as a sophomore.

Next year, the Xavier High School grad could be patrolling center field for an NCAA Division I ballclub at a four-year school.

Grimm continued to build on his solid campaign Tuesday as the Eagles split a non-conference doubleheader against Black Hawk College, winning the first game 11-9 and dropping the nightcap 10-2.

Grimm went 3-for-5 in the twin-bill with a home run, two walks and four runs, raising his batting average to .425 with two homers and 19 RBIs. He leads Kirkwood in hits, runs scored and batting average and ranks second in RBIs.

"Bryce Grimm has come so far," Kirkwood Coach Todd Rima said. "He wasn't playing every day (at the beginning of last year), but all he did was work. Now he's hitting with more power and driving in runs.

"He's as good a center-fielder as anybody in our league and in the midwest, I think. He's a Division I baseball player. There's no question in our mind that he can play at that level. We're going to find him a spot, because he's a great player.

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